Grocery Meals June 12-18

I’m so happy this new series has received such a positive response. I love good food and I love saving money so sharing how to shop sales and optimize your weekly grocery haul at Whole Foods fills my heart.My hope is to not only share “recipes” and shopping lists but my process, so that you can learn how to feel confident creating meals specific to your tastes too.

The first thing I do is look through the weekly deals & sales. Each week Whole Foods has dozens of sale items throughout the store, but also special “Prime Member Deals” which are typically priced lower than you can find anywhere else. Prime members also save an additional 10% off all regular sale items so if you aren't already a Prime Member, sign up for a free trial and see for yourself.

When scanning the Prime Deals, pay special attention to proteins and produce. This week, Sustainable Wild-Caught Fresh Halibut Fillets and Made In-House Pork Sausages jumped out at me. They also continued the $2 off Rotisserie Chicken deal. To save money, I tend to stick to protein priced at $5-6/pound or less. The halibut is higher than I'd normally pay, but the lower cost of the pork and chicken offset it and I think it's worth it to treat yourself, especially when there is a deal like this. I then decide which fruits and vegetables suit my taste and start thinking about how I can pair them with protein for tasty meals.I then scan the rest of the sale items (or if in store, I walk down the aisles looking for yellow tags) and see if any of my pantry staples are on special.

This week, one of my very favorite products is on super sale. If you haven't tried Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauces, you are in for a treat. I don't know how they do it, but it's incomparable. It's a premium product normally priced at $8.99, but they really hook it up when sale rolls around as it's discounted to $4.49! If you take anything away from this weeks post, stock up on Rao's sauce. My favorite is the spicy Arrabbiata, but all the flavors are delicious. If you're keto, the sensitive formula omits onions which lends itself to a lower carb count. Bolognese made with ground beef is one of my favorite staples in regular rotation so I will definitely be making that this week.

As I continue this series, you'll learn that I always stock up on 1lb increments of ground beef when it's on sale. It's a lower-priced cut at regular price so don't hesitate to buy it for meals this week, but definitely stock up when pasture raised is a Prime Deal at $3-4/lb.

On the Menu this week:

  • Mediterranean Halibut with Tomatoes, Artichokes, & Capers
  • Tomato, Asparagus, & Feta Salad + Rotisserie Chicken
  • Ground Beef Bolognese with Noodles + Zucchini
  • Spicy Italian Sausage “Egg Roll in a Bowl”
  • Yogurt with Peaches & Raspberries

I cook for myself so the quantities I buy and discuss are based on meals for one person. I typically prepare 1 pound of protein and split into 4 portions, roughly 4oz each. With the Halibut, I am only buying 1/2 pound because leftover fish ain't exactly my jam. I will also cook them in the order listed above to optimize for what keeps longest. The beef and sausages can be kept in the freezer until ready to cook.

In my Cart this week:

PRODUCE

MEAT & CHEESE SHELF STAPLES SNACKS
  • Chocolove, Chocolate Bar Salted Almond Butter
  • Lundberg Family Farms Organic Wild Rice Cakes
STOCK UP & SAVE STAPLES
  • Sausage Pork Link Chorizo
  • Rao's Homemade Arrabbiata Sauce
  • Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement, 40% off

Mediterranean Halibut with Tomatoes, Olives, Artichokes, & Capers

I haven't made this exact recipe or combination before, but I stumbled upon it when googling to look for a baked halibut, tomato, and zucchini recipe I used to make. It was tasty, but this sounds better. I only have a stovetop these days, so I will be attempting to make this in my cast iron skillet. I really like to keep things simple for a variety of reasons and so I typically only glance at recipes for general timing or flavor guidelines. I haven't made this yet but I'll update with details when I do. Most people have an oven so if you aren't an adventures cook yet, I'd recommend following along the recipe linked above.

Tomato, Asparagus, & Feta Salad + Rotisserie Chicken

Summer is when you'll find the most flavorful tomatoes and we are just kicking off the season. Different varieties will continue to be on sale throughout the summer and I dreamt up this combination to pair with Asparagus, which is also on sale this week. I love to keep feta crumbles and shredded parmesan in the refrigerator. They last a long time and a little goes a long way in amplifying a simple dish.
  1. Whisk together dijon mustard, avocado oil, and lemon juice
  2. Add asparagus to salted boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes (A good friend recommends peeling asparagus to improve texture. I've never tried, but probably will this week and I'll report back!)
  3. Chop grape tomatoes into halves while the asparagus cooks
  4. Drain asparagus and rinse with cold running water
  5. Toss tomatoes, asparagus, dressing, and feta

Ground Beef Bolognese with Noodles + Zucchini

I've made this so many times that I could probably make it in my sleep. It's my number one go-to meal and using Rao's Homemade Arrabbiata Sauce is my favorite way to do it. Spaghetti and meat sauce is mega comfort food for me and I've poured this sauce over all kinds of vegetables and pasta with equal delight. It's great with zoodles and lately, I have been experimenting with different types of noodles mixed with zoodles. The base recipe couldn't be easier:
  1. Brown ground beef in large skillet or pot
  2. Feel free to drain excess fat (I don't) or add spices (sometimes I add Simply Organic Italian Seasoning — If you use Rao's, it doesn't really need it.)
  3. Optional step: Add chopped mushrooms or vegetables and saute for a few minutes. You can also do this after the next step. There really is no wrong way to do this.
  4. Add a jar of marinara sauce. Again, you know what I use and I'd suggest you do the same. Other sauces are fine too, but once you use Rao's I doubt you'll go back.
  5. Add a little water to the jar and shake it around to clean the jar and use all the sauce. I typically reduce the heat to a simmer and leave it on the back burner for half an hour or more. It's not necessary, I just think it infuses the meat and vegetables with the sauce. This could be totally in my mind, but this is what I do.
Because I cook in 1 pound increments with meat, I typically divide this into 4 servings and often freeze 2 to keep on hand for times when I don't feel like cooking. As I've been experimenting with adding in more vegetables, I have been stretching it to 5 or 6 servings, especially if I am eating it over pasta instead of zoodles alone.I use the original spiralizer to make zoodles and I love it. I know there are many more styles available on the market now, but I've been using this one for nearly a decade and it still works as well as the day I bought it.The MOST IMPORTANT tip for zucchini noodles is to salt them and let them rest for about 10 minutes. This releases the excess moisture and makes for a more noodle-like texture that doesn't leave you with a watery sauce.I was on a Banza chickpea spaghetti kick for awhile because I love the flavor and consistency, but I've finally admitted that chickpeas make me bloated and gassy so this week I experimented with Modern Table Complete Protein Vegetable Beet Rotini. I really enjoyed it and because it is on sale, I will buy an extra box to keep in the pantry. Spicy Italian Sausage “Egg Roll in a Bowl” You can hardly call this a recipe because I literally brown the sausage and then add in chopped cabbage. I am a simple woman and the spices in the sausage season the cabbage well enough for me to enjoy. On occasion, I will get fancy and add in sesame oil or soy sauce, but I don't think it needs either. This is also called “crack slaw” and tastes especially delicious reheated in a skillet with an egg.

Yogurt with Peaches & Raspberries

I've been slowly adding fruit back into my diet and it usually shows up at breakfast. Last week I bought an extra Siggi's Whole Milk yogurt when it was on sale. The expiration date isn't until the end of the month so I will eat it again with sliced peaches and raspberries this week. I don't always want to eat breakfast but like to have an option if I wake up hungry or feel like a snack in the afternoon. One large container is typically 4-5 servings which lasts me a week.

Grocery Meals June 5-11

I try to keep things simple so you'll often see me eating a lot of the same. I shop to optimize savings and build my meals around weekly sales.

In my cart this week:

My meals this week:

  • Chicken with veggies in bone broth
  • Taco grass-fed beef stuffed peppers
  • Tuna/Chicken salad with Mary's crackers
  • Yogurt with blueberries & peanut butter
  • Green soup

Chicken in Bone Broth

Rotisserie chickens are a mainstay in my arsenal for easy dinners. The everyday price is always a good deal (it differs by region but an organic chicken is typically $9.99 in San Francisco), but the past few weeks they've been $2 off for prime members. I occasionally buy non-organic if I am interested in the featured flavor. Both organic and non-organic are rated “Step 4” so I feel good about the quality either way.

As soon as I get home, I pull all the meat off the bone. If I'm feeling detail-oriented, I separate the white meat and dark meat as I'll often use them in different ways (ie: white meat for chicken salads, dark meat when eating plain), but it really doesn't matter. What's key is saving the bones and putting them in an instant pot, covering with water, and setting for 90 minutes. This makes super gelatinous gut healing bone broth that can be used throughout the week.

Chicken in broth isn't the kind of meal that I get super jazzed about, but it's quick and easy + always feels nourishing for my body. I find ways to mix it up with add-ins like vegetables, cauliflower rice, or recently rice noodles, depending on what I have on hand. It shouldn't be complicated. Just add salt + pepper and spices like cumin, smoked paprika, or turmeric, depending on what sounds good. Recently I have been including Lotus Foods black rice noodles and I want to experiment with asian / umami flavors next. Maybe even add in a soft boiled egg?

(post in progress, please check back and refresh as I toggle between here and instagram #notaprofessionalblogger)

Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

Like most of the world, I love a good taco, and I'm happy with taco flavors in pretty much any form. Taco spiced ground beef is in regular rotation in my kitchen as grass-fed ground beef is budget friendly and I love the taste in any form. This week bell peppers AND grass fed ground beef are on sale so I'm cooking up taco stuffed peppers. These are easy to modify to your dietary preferences and can be roasted in the oven or served cold.

This meal is great for anyone following a paleo, keto, or even whole 30 way of eating. I've also tried a vegan version made with quinoa, and it was surpassingly delicious. Recently I've experimented with adding some grains and legumes to the meals I cook at home, which is new for me.

The basic recipe for taco seasoned meat couldn't be easier. Brown 1 pound of ground beef until no longer pink. I use half a packet of spicely organic taco seasoning (I stock up when it's on sale), but I'm out, I'll just add cumin, chili powder, and salt. I rarely measure and recommend you don't either. Learning how to intuitively cook and season food is one of the best life skills you can practice and this staple is hard to mess up. If you want to drain the fat, add a tiny bit of water to help everything mix together and then turn down the heat to simmer for a few minutes while prepping the peppers.

While I have access to an oven, I am roasting the peppers one last time before switching over to colder versions as I shared on instagram (see below). If roasting, you want to slice and put in the oven BEFORE cooking the meat as they can take a while to soften up unless you put in the broiler. There's no wrong way to roast them but I like them soft and slightly charred which can take up to 30 minutes in an oven at 350.

Simply scoop the taco meat into the bell pepper shells and top with guacamole, sour cream (I typically use whole milk yogurt but coconut yogurt is also good!), salsa, cheese, etc.

Tuna/Chicken Salad

You probably don't need me to teach you how to make tuna/chicken/egg salad but maybe you will be inspired by the little things I do to spice it up with little to no effort. This week, Wild Planet Seafood and Primal Kitchen condiments are on sale. I'm a huge fan of PK avocado oil mayo, having used both plain and chipotle flavors for the past few years. I've been wanting to try the new garlic aioli version since it came out but I do not buy products like this unless they are on sale so it's had to wait until this week. I think their chipotle mayo works especially well for a quick tuna/chicken salad that requires no other ingredients and I am excited to see how the garlic aioli flavor works out.

I also bought Mary's Gone Crackers, another product I've never tried and would only buy on sale. I don't often eat crackers but this classic combo feels nostalgic so I figured YOLO. I typically eat tuna and chicken salad on a bed of salad greens, green beans, or alongside crudités. Here's a quick and dirty nicoise inspired version where I added feta and soft boiled egg. Avocado is also a great add-in. So many options and the key to saving time and money is to use what is easy and already on hand.

Whole Milk Yogurt with Fruit

I'm pretty loyal to Siggi's Dairy because I love the thicker consistency, especially in their whole milk and triple cream yogurts. It's also easy to find nationwide and doesn't contain any weird ingredients or additives. I usually go for the larger container because it's cheaper per ounce and I can also use a spoonful for other meals (like the stuffed bell pepper tacos).

This year I've gotten really into blueberries and peanut butter. I actually bought these blueberries last week when they were on sale. This week the organic strawberries at 2/$5 is the best value. There's something about the combo of fruit and peanut butter that really works for my tastebuds and a sprinkle of cinnamon on top adds a little unexpected “sweetness” — that's in quotes because it's not actually a sweetener, but as someone who eats very little sugar, cinnamon does make it sweeter (in my mind?)

Green Soup

My friend Tynan introduced me to this soup, who was introduced to it by his mother, who saw it in Austin Fit magazine attributed to The Soup Peddler. I found a nearly identical recipe by Liz Moody that appears to be the original. I've modified my version and removed “Detox” from the name. Whatever version you choose to follow, I encourage you to make it your own. It is a delicious way to maximize your vegetable intake and easy to batch and freeze. I have frozen into bowl and cube size servings to use in various recipes. I often toss a few cubes into bone broth or tomato sauce for added nutrition. I have made this three times with slightly different variations and it's hard to mess up. It is not necessary to measure and if you follow the basic instructions, your soup should turn out well. Adding the fresh parsley and cilantro at the end is key for a bright green soup.

Ingredients 
Avocado Oil
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large zucchini, diced
2 whole broccoli crown,
roughly chopped
1 bunch kale, de-stemmed
and chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Saute onion and garlic in oil until onions are translucent.
Add zucchini, kale and broccoli.
Cover with water and cook until all vegetables are very soft. Remove from heat and add cilantro, parsley and lemon juice. Puree with an immersion blender or Vitamix blender. Season with salt and pepper.

Thanksgiving with Whole Foods Market 365

It's my favorite time of the year and I am excited to share more quick and easy tips in collaboration with Whole Foods Market 365. Growing up, I shopped at the original Whole Foods Market and it has been incredible to watch my local health food store evolve from humble roots to leading the way in offering high-quality food, standards, and service at an accessible price. With streamlined stores offering a more simplified shopping experience and additional savings for Amazon Prime members, Whole Foods Market 365 makes healthy living easy.

I am all about convenience anytime of year so I thought I'd share some of the ways that I save time and money while staying healthy and enjoying the holiday season. Because Whole Foods Market 365 is a smaller store with a more curated experience, it's easier to get in and out with what you need.

I was recently in Portland and met a long-time “insta-friend” in real life. She hosted a Friendsgiving dinner and introduced me to her community of strong and supportive women. I introduced her to Whole Foods 365 Lake Oswego, where we were in and out in 10 minutes and picked up their grab n' go cheese board, simple mills crackers, marinara sauce for meatballs, and 365 holiday s'mores chocolate bark. The pre-made cheese board was a huge hit, and I loved how it included a board and markers to indicate the types of cheese. All items sold at Whole Foods follow quality standards which means there are no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats.

Back home, I headed to my local Whole Foods Market 365 in Concord to shop for the week leading into Thanksgiving and put together a few ideas to make meal-times streamlined and flexible for all the leftovers to come. I love my local 365 store, as it's a bright and beautiful with a huge selection of grab n' go items, prepared foods bar, in-house taqueria, and more. I decided to create my own take on turkey dinner leftovers using sweet potato toast as a base and traditional toppings like turkey and cranberry sauce as toppings.

I am a huge fan of turkey, but the idea of cooking an entire bird for myself was a little intimidating. Fortunately, the hot bar at Whole Foods Market 365 stocks juicy turkey and all the fixins like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. I picked up several sweet potatoes, pre-pack sides including organic cranberry sauce, garlic parsley green beans, and plenty of staples for simple dinners throughout the week.

Sweet Potato Toast

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cut sweet potatoes into 1/4″ slices
  • Place on baking sheet or rack.
  • Cook for 20-30 minutes, until just soft. You may need to adjust for your own taste and depending on if you will eat them all immediately or toast and reheat later.

Sweet Potato toasts can be refrigerated and stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days and reheated in a toaster like a traditional slice of bread!

I am looking forward to making more sweet potato toast with Thanksgiving dinner leftovers. The turkey with cranberry was a delicious combo and I think it will be next-level with the addition of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and gravy on Black Friday.

This is one of my tried and true recipes. I've made this with pears and peaches, though I think it's next-level with Honeycrisp apples If you aren't already a fan, you soon will be. In my opinion, Honeycrisp is THE most delicious apple variety, sweet like honey with a crisp bite. This is also an excellent way to use fruit that doesn't ripen as cooking naturally softens and sweetens.

Cinnamon Apples with Pumpkin Spice Latte Pecans

  • Heat 1-2 tbsp of butter in stovetop skillet
  • Slice fruit into wedges and arrange evenly
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon
  • After about 3-4 minutes (this varies by fruit, but generally you'll know it's time to flip when the underside is a beautiful caramel brown)
  • Add a handful of pecans. You can also use walnuts or sliced almonds if you prefer. For this recipe, I used Whole Foods 365 Pumpkin Spice Latte Pecans

During the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I'm often short on time so I stocked up on a few Whole Foods 365 Grab n' Go Soup Kits to batch cook so I can easily reheat a bowl for lunch or dinner. Want to see my entire cart haul and a tour of my local store? Follow me on Instagram and watch the 365 stories on my feed!

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Basil Pesto & Blistered Tomatoes

As Fall sets in, it's the perfect time to savor the last of the summer produce. I'm always looking for easy options to throw together a quick and tasty dinner, especially as the calendar fills up and days get shorter. This meal couldn't be more simple, taking only 5-10 minutes from start to finish, and is easily adaptable to suit your tastes and ingredients on hand.

I picked up all four ingredients from Whole Foods Market 365 –– a streamlined grocery store evolved from Whole Foods and their 365 Everyday Value product line. I've been excited to try this cauliflower gnocchi since they launched their extended line of frozen fresh pasta and sauce. With tomatoes at their peak and abundant in gardens and markets, they are a natural choice to add flavor to this easy weeknight meal.

Preparation is super fast and flexible. Both the cauliflower gnocchi and pesto sauce are found in the frozen section and can be stored in the freezer or refrigerator, depending on how soon you'll use them. I left mine to thaw in the refrigerator overnight so they'd be easier to work with when I was ready to make dinner.

Ingredients

  • Frozen or fresh gnocchi
  • Frozen or fresh pesto
  • Fresh cherry tomatoes
  • Shaved parmesan cheese
  • Avocado or olive oil

Start by heating oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet and then filling a pot with water to boil. Once the water is on the burner, add the tomatoes to the skillet. If you don't have tomatoes on hand, try swapping for another vegetable. Some of my favorites include spinach, squash, peppers, and eggplant. The key to this meal is simplicity so get creative and use whatever on sale or what you have on hand.

Once the water is boiling, gently place the gnocchi in the pot. It only takes 2-3 minutes to cook, depending on if started from frozen or thawed. Either way, you don't need a timer –– it happens quickly, so be prepared to remove from the burner. You'll know it's done when the gnocchi floats to the top of the water. Once they've risen, pour into a strainer and return to the warm pan and mix in a few spoonfuls of the pesto sauce. If you don't have pesto on hand, try adding a simple tomato sauce or even just some butter –– it's hard to go wrong with this cauliflower gnocchi as the base. Once you've folded in the sauce to the warm gnocchi, top with your blistered vegetables, parmesan, and you're done! It's really that simple.

When I shared this on Instagram last week, many of you were excited about to try it yourselves, asking where to find it in store. Most of you are familiar with the 365-brand of items carried at Whole Foods, but many were unfamiliar with the 365 specialty stores, which are opening up around the country. Whole Foods Market 365 is a special branch of Whole Foods with its own branded stores. I shop at the Concord store, which is the first in the Bay Area. These they are popping up in cities around the country and you can find your nearest local store here!

Summer Picnic

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

Picnics are one of my favorite ways to spend time with friends when the weather warms up. As a lover of the outdoors, dining al fresco makes sharing a meal all the more enjoyable. I'm thrilled to show you a few of my picnic staples in partnership with Whole Foods 365, a simpler grocery shopping experience evolved from Whole Foods and their 365 Everyday Value product line.

When planning a picnic, I like to bring a variety of foods so that everyone is sure to have an option they love. I don't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen so I typically mix and match my own recipes with a few items from the cold case. My go-to is a fresh salad with in-season produce and protein that can be prepared in advance.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

I prioritize quality food and stick to a budget so I tend to shop and create my weekly menus based on sale items. Whole Foods 365 has a curated, simplified shopping experience and I picked up everything for our picnic at an affordable price.

Picnic Menu:

  • MAINS: Cilantro lime shrimp and tomato salad, Baby back ribs
  • SIDES: Corn on the cob, Potato salad
  • SNACKS: Late July purple corn chips, 365 pre-pack pico de gallo
  • DESSERT: Fresh cherries and grilled peaches
  • DRINKS: Waterloo sparkling water

I'd been having rib-envy after seeing all of the 4th of July spreads on social media, so I also picked up pre-seasoned barbeque baby back ribs, an ear of corn, and pre-pack potato salad to round out the menu.

I recently started growing cilantro and was hoping I'd find a way to use it into a recipe. The tomatoes are bursting with flavor right now and shrimp was on sale so I knew I decided to combine cilantro lime shrimp and tomatoes for the main course salad.

Cilantro Lime Grilled Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

  • 1 pound 26/30 Shrimp
  • heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • approx 1/2 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic
  • quarter red onion
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • baby spinach

Start by juicing the lime and mixing with 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a bowl. Chop garlic cilantro, onions, and tomatoes. Toss in the lime and oil, add salt, pepper, or seasoning to taste and set aside. This can be prepared up to a day in advance.

In a medium heat skillet, add 1 pound of fresh shrimp. Stir frequently as the color changes from translucent to opaque. Most shrimp will cook completely in 4-5 minutes. Once done, Immediately remove from heat and fold into tomato salad with a few handfuls of baby spinach.

This salad can be easily modified in a number of ways depending on what you have on hand to create different flavors. I chose cilantro because it's what I had on hand, but you could add olives, oregano, and feta cheese for a Greek flavor or Italian with basil, mozzarella, and olive oil.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp with Heirloom Tomatoes

Weekly Weigh In

My intention at the beginning of the year was to share more consistently by weighing in on the previous week. Like so many times before, I didn't follow through. I'd like to blame it on one of the many the curveballs life threw my way, but the truth is I've become lazy about keeping commitments to myself and others. Here's to changing that behavior and showing up imperfectly.

Reflections: The past month was a whirlwind with a big change in my living situation. The move was unexpected and somewhat traumatic but what's come out the situation feels like a dream.

As anyone who has ever moved knows, it's not the most fun and  takes awhile for everything to settle. I didn't cook much and I exercised even less over the past month, but I did my best to be mindful about my food choices and movement.

When I finally unpacked and stepped on my scale, I was surprised to see I hadn't gained weight and instead I'd lost a pound. I've eaten foods that make my belly ache more than once but I'm trying to have compassion for what drives that and keep moving forward.

Last week, I went to my friend Sarah‘s Galentines brunch at Le Marais Bakery. She's a fashion blogger and reminds me of my days as a 20-something Chanel-wearing fashion entreprenuer. These days I prefer Athleta and hiking boots, but I still like getting fancy when the occasion calls for it. I actually thought about getting dressed up and wanted to wear something more feminine like a dress or blouse and heels, but I didn't have any good options. I settled on a sweater with black pants and boots, threw on some makeup, and felt pretty cute. Y'all, everyone showed up in pink. There was no memo, they just instinctively did it. I guess on Wednesdays they wear pink 😉

Look, I could have used this as an opportunity to feel like an outsider or what I wasn't enough. You know, those old tapes. But that's not what happened. I thought it was funny and embraced my differences without shame. Do I wish I had taken the opportunity to get fancy and have Alexis take my picture? Yes! It would have been a great opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone. Am I ashamed that I wasn't wearing pink? No way! I am proud that I'm able to show up in this kind of situation and take it in stride.

I went into this meal anticipating that I would indulge and I enjoyed it all. I'm not sure if that freedom allowed me to avoid emotional eating in a slightly akward social situation, but I just felt at ease. I've heard of Le Marais Bakery, but hadn't tried it because I didn't imagine they'd have many options for me. What surprised me most was the variety of keto options on their menu. They have many of the usual french favorites, but also a fun build your own board where you choose 5-7 sides from things like smoked salmon, bacon, proscuitto, 3 types of eggs, croissant, bagel, fruit, oatmeal, avocado, and more.

Intentions: Keep showing up. Make a plan and share it. Weigh-in again next week.

Learning to Rock Climb

Up For Anything Challenge

To ring in 2018 and celebrate the launch of the new ‘Up For Anything' tight, Athleta challenged me and a friend to be #UpForAnything and step outside our comfort zone by attending a fitness class we've never tried before. Throughout my journey, I've taken all types of classes, from SoulCycle to Barre, but never dared try rock climbing. The idea intrigued me, but the story I told myself and others was that it was too dangerous.

We all have those exhilarating yet intimidating activities that we'd like to try, but I truly believed that my size and strength disqualified me from participating. Like many activities of years past, I believed climbing wasn't meant for someone (fat) like me. Thanks to a growing movement of body confidence and inclusion, I've started to push past limiting beliefs about my body and the space I take up in the world. When Athleta asked if I was #UpForAnything, I knew reaching for my limitless potential meant I not only had to scale the wall in the gym but also the one I'd built up in my mind.

Nominating A Friend

My friend Suzanne has been a huge source of motivation in my life. I admire her willingness not only to push herself but encourage others to step outside their comfort zones too. I met her at a book signing in Berkeley, and we felt an immediate kinship –– she has also spent most of her life overweight and worked to overcome struggles with confidence and self-love. When I began my Instagram account, It was a food diary where I shared snaps of what I was eating. Despite having lost over 70 pounds, I had crippling body image issues and avoided pictures at all costs. It was Suzanne who encouraged me to share my story and step out from behind the camera. I am forever grateful for her (not so subtle) nudge and all the ways I have grown as a result. When Athleta asked me to nominate a friend to tackle this challenge with me, it seemed only fitting that it would be Suzanne.

What To Wear

It's safe to say that rock climbing gear does not lend itself to the most flattering look. The harness has a tendency to bunch up and squish things around, which is why it's recommended to wear clothes that offer comfort and mobility. Athleta's new Up For Anything Tight is the perfect combination of movement and support. Their amazing Scluptek Light is a lighter weight compression fabric that is extremely versatile for any workout. The pants stayed put the entire time and I didn’t once worry about the waistband falling or rolling down. In fact, I didn’t think about my pants at all, which is a sign of optimal performance in my book. My must-have feature for pants are pockets, and these pants have four: one hidden in the waistband, two leg pockets, and one side zip pocket. Combined with the beautiful, bold jewel-tone colors, these pants are a new favorite.

Rock Climbing Basics

There are many types of rock climbing, and each requires different training and equipment. Indoor gyms most often include:

  • Bouldering involves routes that are close to the ground and does not require a harness or rope. The floor is typically a thick pad to protect you when falling.
  • Top-Rope Climbing is the most popular type of indoor climbing and requires a harness-and-rope secured to an overhead anchor. You tie into one end of the rope, and the other end of the rope is held by a belayer (the person who handles the tension in the rope to catch you in case of a fall).
  • Lead Climbing requires the most skill and is the more like outdoor sport climbing. The challenge with lead climbing is that if you slip, you’ll have a harder fall than you would feel when top-roping.

Top-rope climbing is the most popular among indoor climbing my heart was set on making it up the wall so we needed to take belay lessons. Our instructor walked us through all of the basics, learning how to tie knots that would keep us secure in our harness and how to belay so we could support one another. One of the things I didn't realize about rock climbing is the constant reliance on another person. As someone who tends to isolate and do everything myself, I enjoyed this push to rely on another person and was grateful to share the experience with a friend who I trust.

Once we got through the detailed instruction, it was time to put my limits to the test! I love adventure and trying new things, so the spirit of this challenge was right up my alley, but as I mentioned, I have been carrying a genuine fear of rock climbing. After examining what was driving the fear, I realized that it's mostly mental, but that didn't mean it disappeared once I put on a harness. I had come this far so there was no turning back. Climbing the wall was not as difficult as I expected and the feeling of reaching further with each step was exciting.

Are you up for Anything?

Now that I've conquered that fear, I want to share this feeling of accomplishment and remain Up For Anything in 2018! I am planning to continue to practicing climbing so I can improve my strength and skill. If you're in San Francisco and would like to climb with me, send a message! I'd love to meet up with new and old friends so we can support each other on the ropes! If you're not in the Bay Area, is there a workout that you’ve always wanted to try but been too afraid to pursue? Will you join me in the challenge this year? I'd love to hear what that means to you.

Thank you to Athleta for sponsoring this post. I am grateful to work with a brand who inspires me to reach for my limitless potential. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Weekly Weigh-In

Happy New Year, friends!

One of my goals for 2018 is to share more, with greater consistency. I'm going to be posting weekly “weigh-ins” to reflect on my journey and progress from the previous week. I hope that this external accountability will help me connect with more of you. If you are also working toward your health goals, I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Reflections: One of my intentions for the year is to be more flexible and intuitive with my food choices. I feel physically and mentally better when I limit carbs, but I also want the freedom to enjoy the pleasure and social connection of food. This deserves a dedicated post, but for context, I've been eating a mostly ketogenic diet since December 1, and I'm feeling terrific.

I spent New Years Eve weekend in Yosemite National Park and experienced some magical moments I will never forget. I got more steps than I have in awhile and it was wonderful to be outside. I brought plenty of healthy options for meals and snacks, but also the mindset that I would enjoy indulgences if I wanted to. For the most part, the food around the park is mediocre, but two occasions felt worth it: a few bites of a birthday skillet cookie a la mode and new years eve campfire dinner of hot dogs and s'mores. I am happy with those choices and have no regrets.

Unsurprisingly, the scale had gone up a few pounds when I got home, but I assumed this was water weight and trusted it to even out in a few days. That proved true, and I ended this week 5.2 pounds down from my Tuesday morning post-trip weigh-in.

Intentions: I've fallen way off track with my daily step habit. For years, I consistently walked ~10k steps per day, but this past year, I regressed. My intention for this week is to be more active and accumulate 70k steps over the course of the week. There is rain in the forecast, and I am traveling, which is why I chose a weekly goal instead of the pressure of a daily goal.

Instagram:  Instagram has been a huge source of inspiration and community for me and I'm making an effort to post more consistently. I know not everyone uses social media, so I want to share those posts here as well.

YOU ARE THE ONLY AUTHORITY ON YOUR HEALTH, YOUR BODY & YOUR DIET. I've been so tempted to do #januarywhole30 with friends, but my intuition keeps saying NO. Why? Probably because it's not MY program, it's @melissa_hartwig's program. Don't get me wrong; I think #whole30 is an incredible blueprint with awe-inspiring resources and a supportive community. In fact, the program rules are almost identical to the way I eat, but at this point in my journey, I'm not seeking rules, I'm seeking freedom. – A few years ago I hypothesized that carbohydrates were fueling my food addiction and discovered #keto when googling “Will I die if I don't eat carbohydrates?” I am a long-time advocate of real food and carried whole 30 / paleo principles into my 8-month experiment with a #ketogenic diet. I felt terrific, and my lifelong preoccupation with food went away. I was able to eat intuitively without counting or tracking and lost weight with ease. I didn't binge once, and my #hidradenitissuppurativa went into remission. I thought I had found the answer. – Then life happened. I lost sight of what DID work for me in favor of what I WANTED to work for me. While 2017 was the year I finally learned to have love and compassion for my body, my health rapidly declined as I stopped prioritizing foundational habits like walking, preparing meals at home, and eating vegetables every day. – Last month I recommitted to a #ketogenic diet because I felt like food was controlling me and I wanted to be able to think clearly. For whatever reason, my body and brain seem to perform better in #ketosis. I don't know what this looks like longterm, but I am focussing on being less rigid and more intuitive about it. My intention for 2018 is to honor physical and mental health while cultivating resilience and metabolic flexibility. – I think food stuff is hard for so many reasons, but mainly because it's unique for each of us. My most significant takeaway of 2017 is that we must be our own advocates. No one can understand you or your body better than you. Filter out the noise. I can't tell you what will work for you; I can only share my experience in hopes that it might inspire you on your own journey.

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Nothing went according to plan, but I’m pretty sure everything happened exactly as it was supposed to. Feeling grateful for a magical NYE in Yosemite with @artcampla and fam. – Just after midnight, we heard a mighty pack of coyotes singing across the valley. It sounded as though there were thousands of them and their otherworldly song is one we won’t soon forget. – I read that the coyote is often revered as an important messenger of personal transformation through self-reflection. It’s said that a coyote sighting can be a reminder to look at things you may have been avoiding. A call to see your full reflection and focus on your whole life instead of just one part. – This feels particularly relevant going into 2018. A few months ago I was feeling really down and did a thought experiment trying to imagine how my life might have different had it not been overshadowed by obesity. What else do I care about? What if I never overcome this struggle? What do I really love? – I don’t know why I feel self conscious to share how much I love photography. I’ve been taking pictures since I was 7 years old, but I rarely share them. I’m definitely a perfectionist, but also an introvert so it’s easy for me to keep things to myself. One of my intentions for 2018 is to embrace imperfection and share more of my work. – I’d also like to hike all of the major trails out of Yosemite Valley! This photo was taken as we unexpectedly caught the moon rising on our way back to camp.

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Stocking up at @wholefoods 25% off supplement sale! Double discounts on some of my favorites including #bulletproof and #vitalproteins. The sale starts today and runs through the weekend (January 5-7) in local stores across the country so don't miss it! – #ontheblog, I partnered with @wholefoodssanfrancisco and wrote about my top 3 keto supplements to help get into ketosis and prevent the keto flu. I compared different MCT oils and shared some of the ways to cut down on costs. I'd love to know what you think and if you have any other recommendations for me to try. (link in my profile or http://excessmatters.com/keto-supplements). – Y'all know I rely on real food for my nutrients, but I do supplement when needed so I'll be sharing a few more staples on my stories and I'd love to know what supplements help you optimize your health.

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I'm still figuring out how I want to format these weekly weigh-ins, which are about so much more than the number on the scale. What would you like to see? What would be helpful to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts if you have a minute to share!

Top 3 Supplements for Ketosis and Preventing Keto Flu

So you're trying out Keto? As your body transitions from a glucose to fat-burning state, a number of uncomfortable flu-like symptoms may pop up. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help your body get into ketosis more efficiently, with less friction. I'm excited to partner with Whole Foods Market to highlight some of my favorite supplements which aide in fat-adaptation and keto flu prevention. This weekend's 25% off supplement sale is the best time to stock up and save so make your list and head to your local Whole Foods Market from January 5-7 for great deals on some of my favorite brands.

As an advocate of real food, I make every effort to get nutrients from whole food sources, however, there are a few products I use and recommend to increase success while transitioning into ketosis on a low-carbohydrate diet.

MCT Oil

When beginning a ketogenic diet, it can be a challenge to eat enough high-quality fats. One of the more popular methods is by drinking what's referred to as “Bulletproof coffee” — a combination of grass-fed butter and MCT oil blended into coffee.

If you've never heard of MCT oil, you are not alone. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides, a type of fat molecule derived from coconuts. MCT oil is popular in the keto community because it is quickly converted to ketones, providing a potent energy source.

There are four kinds of MCTs (C6, C8, C10, C12) and some turn into ketones more efficiently than others. One of my favorite MCT oils is Bulletproof Brain Octane, which is pure C8 caprylic acid — a form that is particularly effective for cognitive function. As is often the case, quality comes at a premium and the price is higher than anything else on the market. I use Brain Octane sparingly when I need quick long-burning energy.

For day to day, I tend to rely on Whole Foods 365 MCT oil. While it is not as potent as Brain Octane, it fits my budget and is more well-rounded. 365 MCT oil is a blend of three types of MCTS (C8, C10, and C12). While C8 and C10 are similar in mental and metabolic boosts, C12 is the strongest MCT for fighting off viruses, fungi, and bacteria.

If you're curious to try a “Bulletproof coffee,” Whole Foods has just added this keto-friendly beverage to their coffee bar menu!

Electrolytes

Transitioning into ketosis can cause a temporary diuretic effect which results in a loss of both electrolytes and water in your body. This imbalance, called Keto Flu, causes symptoms such as fatigue, headache, irritability, dizziness, muscle soreness, cramping, or nausea. During the first few weeks, it's important to drink plenty of fluids and salt your food generously to prevent dehydration. I also find it helpful to supplement with electrolyte drinks and/or bone broth, especially when exercising.

I rely on two products: Nuun Electrolyte Tablets and 365 Electrolyte Plus Powder. Nuun has great flavors and the packaging is convenient. I typically use Nuun at home because it's a large solid tablet that takes several minutes to fully dissolve. On-the-go, I prefer 365 Electrolyte Plus, which is a powder that can be quickly poured into a water bottle to drink immediately.

Bone broth is also a great source of electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals. I like to make this from scratch, but when I'm short on time or on the go, I am a fan of Vital Proteins Bone Broth Collagen.

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is fairly common among adults, especially as the body increases the excretion of ions from the body during fat-adaptation. This lack of minerals, including low magnesium, can lead to fatigue and muscle cramps.

I've tried various magnesium capsules and tablets, but I always come back to Natural Calm, an anti-stress drink made from a highly absorbable blend of ionic magnesium citrate. I prefer original unflavored because it is free of sweetener, but it also comes in stevia-sweetened flavors including raspberry-lemon, sweet lemon, orange, and cherry.

Natural Calm also makes single-serving packs that are perfect for travel. Another benefit of Natural I always keep one in my bag to aid in sleep and regular bowel function. If you prefer to get your minerals in capsule form, MegaFood Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium is a great source.

Nutrient Dense Foods

Many foods are rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and are great to include in a ketogenic diet. Some of the top nutrient-dense foods include:

  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Oily Fish (Salmon, Sardines)
  • Eggs
  • Cacao

I recommend including as many of these nutrient dense foods as possible in your meals, particularly during the first few weeks.

This post was created in collaboration with Whole Foods Market. As always, all recommendations and opinions are my own. 

Top 3 Keto Supplements

Moving on Mountains

Hello, friends. It's me and my unruly hair, coming to you live from my favorite mountaintop across the Bay. Most of you know that hiking has become an important part of my life, especially since moving to San Francisco three years ago. I didn't always enjoy moving my body, but in 2012 when I began to build a daily walking habit, I realized the mental benefits far outweighed the calorie deficit.

I've been overweight most of my life and if you share my experience, you know how uncomfortable it can be to move, much less exercise, when carrying excess weight. The rewards of fitness accumulate over time, but it's difficult to build a consistent habit when its negatively reinforced by discomfort. I think this is a big part of why so many of us struggle to get and stay active.

New workout clothes always give me a confidence boost, so when I got more serious about exercise, it was clear I needed to trade in my cheap thigh-rubbed yoga pants for something more technical. At almost 300 pounds, my apparel choices were limited, especially if I wanted something of quality from a brand with integrity. While I hesitated to make the investment, I knew it was important to reward my hard work. Athleta's plus size options and “Give-It-A-Workout” guarantee gave me the confidence to take the plunge into performance activewear.

My first Athleta purchase was the Be Free Knicker, perfect for daily walks and hiking the paved trails of Los Angeles. The pockets were a game-changer and a feature that I now seek in all activewear. The convenience of having a place to stash your phone and keys should not be underestimated. Even when carrying a backpack on the trail, it's nice to have quick access to pull out my phone for photo or peek at the trail map.

As my fitness increased and I began looking for low-impact ways to increase my calorie burn, I stumbled into hiking. I had no idea what I was getting into, but the more time I spent in nature, the better I felt. Not just physically, but mentally — and the research backs my experience. Spending time among trees has numerous healing benefits including reduced anxiety and depression, decreased cortisol production, and increased immunity.

After relocating to the cooler weather of the Bay Area, I found a new favorite in the Metro Drifter. I have several pairs in both regular and high-waist styles and these quickly became my go-to pants for everything from brunch to hitting the trail.

Athleta makes amazing pants for everything, but it wasn't until this year that I decided to try their hike-specific line. I've found my new holy grail in the Wander Utility Pant. Designed not only for trail adventures, but everyday life in the city. The pants are made with trek tech fabric that is water-and-abrasion-resistant on the outside with a cozy, brushed interior. They are stylish and versatile with a super comfortable waistband and tons of pockets, and they even fit my iPhone+!

This weekend, I paired the Wander Utility pant with Cityscape Sweatshirt while hiking Cataract Falls trail on Mount Tamalpais. The Modern Mantra fabric is cozy and breathable with side zips for a little extra ventilation. I'm also partial to the Sunlover UPF Top, which is a lightweight, breathable semi-fitted long-sleeve top rated UPF 50+ and made from sustainable recycled nylon. Both pieces are perfect for layering — a must when exploring outdoors. Finally, I like to wear the lightweight Ahnu Sugarpine boots because they're extremely comfortable, waterproof, and provide ankle support for more challenging terrain. It's just a bonus that they come in beautiful, fun colors.

If you've been thinking about heading out on your own adventure, it's easier to start hiking than you might think. Here are a few beginner tips:

  • Start small. Navigating through the trees and varying terrain can be more tiring that you might imagine. A few miles on a trail will be more difficult than a few miles on a paved road. Start out hiking few miles and gradually build up to longer treks.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear comfortable clothes that offer protection and allow you to move. Make sure you wear appropriate shoes to keep your feet dry and supported.
  • Be prepared. Always carry plenty of water and extra snacks. Even on short hikes, carry a small first aid kit with blister treatment, bug spray, and sunscreen.
  • Plan your timing. Hiking can take longer than expected. It's better to plan for it to take a longer than you expect, especially if you are hiking in the afternoon or evening. Depending on your fitness and the elevation gain, you can expect to cover about two miles per hour.
  • Explore your city. You don’t have to live in the Bay Area to enjoy quality trail time. Cities, counties and states all have parks or natural areas to get started hiking.
  • Tell someone where you're going. While it's great to hike with a buddy, solo hiking can also be very rewarding. It’s important to tell someone where you are going and when you are expected home.

I want to know if you share my love for Athleta, hiking, or both. Would you like to see some of my favorite Bay Area hikes? Tips for solo or destination hiking? What about more of my clothes or try-ons from Athleta and other brands I love? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thank you to Athleta for sponsoring this post. As a long-time consumer of Athleta, I have always felt included no matter my size or fitness level. I respect and support their mission to ignite a community of active, healthy, confident women and girls who empower each other to realize their limitless potential. Of course, all opinions are my own, and I'm grateful to work with a brand I truly believe in.

 

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