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Say Yes to Chocolate!
If you really enjoy chocolate, there is no need to eliminate it from your diet in order to maintain good health and a fit lifestyle.  The key is to eat chocolate (or treats of any kind) in moderation and of good quality. Eating high-quality chocolate (the higher the cocoa content, the better) can raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol. It also provides your body with antioxidants and fibre.  
 
Here is a recipe for chocolate that uses quality ingredients and tastes great!

Chocolate Dipping Sauce

Recipe Makes 2 Servings
 
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
3-4 heaping spoonsful of cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 pinch Cinnamon, or chilli powder (optional)
1 Tsp. maple syrup, or honey (optional)
Food for dipping (½ banana, zucchini, etc.)
 
Start by melting your coconut oil in a saucepan or microwave until it’s completely liquefied.  Be sure to measure it precisely since coconut oil has 120 calories per tablespoon and you don’t want to go too far over.
 
Next, add 3-4 heaping spoonsful of cocoa powder. Mix together until fully blended.  You may add or subtract the number of cocoa powder scoops to achieve the consistency you like for your chocolate dipping sauce.  
 
Finally, choose your own adventure! If you would like your dipping sauce to have a little kick, add a pinch of chili powder or cinnamon for extra flavour. If you would like your chocolate to have a bit of sweetness, add 1 tsp. or less of a natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey.
 
Banana slices, strawberries, zucchini slices (I know, seems strange but the flavour is fairly neutral so the chocolate stands out), nuts, etc. can be used to dip into the chocolate dipping sauce for a more nutritious treat.  
 
This dipping sauce only has 120-140 calories, depending on what you add to it, and it’s a super-satisfying way to get a tasty treat that’s still good for you!
 
 
 
 
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Amp Up Your Veggie Satchel

For those who are new to my nutrition coaching, you may be asking yourself, “What on earth is a veggie satchel?!”

Simply put, a “veggie satchel” is any container you use—Ziploc bags, Tupperware containers, and so on—to measure out pre-cut vegetables for your week. (You can see more about it here.) It’s a terrific way to make sure you’re getting enough veggies without having to spend time every day washing, chopping, and slicing.

But, what can you do if you don’t really like the taste of plain, raw vegetables...but you also don’t want the high fat and sugar content of a salad dressing?

You amp up your veggie satchel!

I made a great discovery at my local Safeway supermarket: Herdez salsa verde.

Check out the great ingredients list: Freshly harvested green tomatillos, savory onions, spicy serrano peppers, salt and fresh cilantro.

That’s it! No sugar, low in sodium, fat, and calories—a super-healthy dipping sauce with big taste.

Of course, if you can’t find this salsa at your local grocery store or on Amazon, making your own is simple. Roast peppers on a baking sheet in the oven until they’re soft, then use your food processor or blender to puree them until you get a really thin salsa.

Check out more about the Veggie Satchel 2.0 here.

How do you amp up your veggie satchel? I’d love to hear about it!

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Help! I’m Addicted to Soda!

Does that sound like you?

(Well, okay, maybe you’re like me and you call it “pop” instead of soda…)

Whether you’re drinking diet pop or regular soda, you probably don’t need me to remind you that they’re not so great for you! Almost every day, I see a new article about possible side effects and long-term health consequences of aspartame (the most common sweetener used in diet drinks), and have you ever seen how much sugar is in a regular can of Coke?

But, if you’re a "gotta-have-it" soda drinker who really wants to make the switch to the healthiest choice—water! —it can be tough! Maybe quitting “cold turkey” works for you, but here’s a suggestion that might help you kick the habit gradually (and decrease the likelihood that you’ll give up and go back to your sugary or artificially-sweetened ways): Try Perrier!

Perrier is simple: Water, carbon dioxide for fizz, and all-natural flavoring. That’s it.

No aspartame.

No chemicals.

No 10 tsp. of sugar.

Give this a shot: This week, replace just one soda with a can of Perrier. Not one a day, just one in your whole week. See what you think.

Then, the next week, take out two sodas and replace them with Perrier.

You see where this is going, right? Eventually, you will have replaced all of your sodas with Perrier, saving yourself a ton of calories and/or chemicals.

And, when you’re ready, you’ll repeat the process—only next time, you’ll start by swapping one Perrier a week with crystal-clear, good-for-you water. In week two, two swaps, and so on, until eventually you’ve kicked your pop habit and replaced all of it with the healthiest choice—water.

As always, I’d love to hear how this goes for you! Do you have a favorite flavor of Perrier? Or, how about another great way to make the switch to water?

 

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Reading Food Labels and Understanding Sugar Content

Understanding food labels can be challenging! Grams of this, percentages of that...it can be hard to know what’s good, bad, and ugly, right?

I’d love to help you understand one component of reading food labels: Sugar!

How much sugar is there in my food?

One of the first pieces is to know that every 4 grams of sugar that you see on a label equals one traditional sugar packet—like the kind you’d put in your coffee or tea. 

For an example, I am going to use a jar of marinara sauce where the serving size is 1/2 cup. When I look at the sugar content, it has 4 grams of sugar in 1/2 cup of Marinara Sauce; a typical meal portion.

b2ap3_thumbnail_sugar_nutrition_facts.png

In other words, you are consuming a packet of sugar if you are having a half-cup of this sauce.

That’s a lot of sugar. How can I eat less of it?

As you start looking at food labels, you may be surprised to find sugar in almost everything, even things you wouldn’t expect like table salt (dextrose) and mayonnaise! One easy strategy to avoiding unnecessary “extras” like sugar and sodium is to eat more natural, less processed foods.

Preparing food takes more planning and work in the kitchen, but the advantage is that if you make it yourself, you’re a lot more aware of what you’re eating!

So, avoid processed foods as much as you can, and if there’s something that you really enjoy, like a treat, or even just a convenience food once in awhile, really be conscious of the serving size and the actual grams of sugar. (Remember that handy rule of thumb: 4 grams equals a packet of sugar.)

Sugar is sneaky.

You’ll find that these sugar grams are quite high in certain foods. Some of the biggest culprits are salad dressings, sauces, and protein bars: They look like they’re healthier options than chocolate bars, but often they’re not.  

And dairy products are also high-sugar foods—yogurt is probably one of the worst! There are certainly great choices out there, but some of them have upwards of 35 grams of sugar!  That’s just astronomical in terms of how much sugar you’re actually consuming. (Helpful hint: Try an unsweetened Greek yogurt and add a packet of sugar or a bit of stevia if you need a boost—or mix in half of a really ripe banana for a natural sweetener.)

Sometimes it seems that people think, “Well, having yogurt is so great, I should be feeling good and energized”, but if it’s laden with sugar, don’t be surprised if you feel the same energy crash you would get if you ate a chocolate bar.

Sugar: The bottom line

If you want a ballpark number to strive for, aim for 4 grams or less per serving in the foods you eat. If that means you need to have a smaller serving, or to put the product back and find a different product (or even better yet, make it yourself), it might take a bit of discipline...but you can do it!  Of course, it may take some time and experimentation to find what works for you and your lifestyle—we’re creating healthy habits that are sustainable, after all!

The less sugar you have in your diet, the easier it is to lose weight and the better it is for your overall health. You’re going to have more energy, and you’re not going to have those sugar highs and then those crashes.

Looking for more assistance with your nutrition?  Contact me here.

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Healthy Protein Snack - Pumpkin Bites

When you think “pumpkin”, do you think autumn weather, holidays, and maybe Halloween? Okay, me too!

But, pumpkin can be a year-round part of your healthy eating. If you’re wondering how to incorporate pumpkin into your diet (other than pumpkin pie!), take a look at this recipe that I discovered awhile ago (because I'm kind of obsessed with it).   

The recipe is for Pumpkin Protein Bites: they are super-simple to make, and even better, they are high in protein. In one “bite”, you get about four grams of protein. I usually have 2 for a serving which makes a really nice snack.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to make, and the ingredients are really nice.

Here’s what you need:

1 cup Oats
1 Scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
1/8 Cup Honey  (you can substitute Agave or Maple Syrup)
1/3 Cup Pumpkin
1 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 Tsp. Gingerbread Spice by Epicure (you can use Pumpkin Pie Spice)

Throw everything into a bowl.

Mix it all together.

Once you start blending it, it will get thick right away.

Once blended, roll about 1 Tbsp. of the dough into a little ball and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

When your baking sheet is full, put it in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Recipe makes approximately 12 little Pumpkin Protein Bites.

Serving Size = 2 as a snack.

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I think you will find that they are tasty, easy to make and best of all...they are healthy!

And an added bonus, pumpkin is great for your skin.

I’d love to hear what you think: Love it? Not so much? Have any other great suggestions for using pumpkin outside of holiday treats?

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