Would Amanda Eat It?

It’s the last WAEI (oh wait, that’s the worst acronym EVER) of the year, so I figured I’d take a recent request – the Oatmega Bar.

Oatmega bars are new to me; in fact I had to look up the company and the product as I’d never heard of either.  They are apparently a new granola-protein bar hybrid touting non-GMO status and general good health for the consumer.  So, would I eat it?

The good:

  • there are 14g of protein per 190-calorie bar, which is decent compared to some other bars (but still not great since two eggs gives you basically the same amount with zero carbs and only 140 calories)
  • super high in fiber – 7g, nearly 30% of your recommended daily intake
  • although there is sugar, it’s only 5g (less than most servings of breakfast cereal), and the chocolate in the bar is unsweetened

The bad:

  • that darn sugar strikes again – this time in the form of “organic brown rice syrup.”  Why, oh why can’t we find products that rely on the natural sweetness of its ingredients (in this case, peanut butter and chocolate) and not additives?
  • a few “mystery ingredients” here – sunflower lecithin, vegetable glycerin, and tapioca starch, to name a few – but mostly binders rather than harmful chemicals
  • this is splitting hairs, but I am always baffled about the use of whey protein in an otherwise gluten-free bar; you could easily make the bar dairy-free as well by subbing in a vegan protein (but again, that doesn’t make the bar bad per se)

The verdict:

  • ok, by now you’ve probably figured out that I am not a fan of processed food in general, but if I were to recommend a bar, this one isn’t bad at all.  The ingredients are whole and organic, the bar is non-GMO, and the gluten-free factor doesn’t hurt at all.
  • would I still recommend eating two hard-boiled eggs to get your protein without a drop of sugar, salt, or carbs?  Of course.  And do I always recommend that my clients who absolutely must rely on bars make their own healthy versions at home?  Yes, yes I do.

So that’s it for this week’s product, readers – the Oamega survives (mostly) unscathed.

What would you like to see me break down next week?  Leave a comment here or on my Facebook page!

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12 Days of Fit-Mas: A Gift Guide

Wondering what fit people really want for the holidays?

Well, if you’re me, you want simple, high-quality functional items that you can use/wear/enjoy every day.  

I scoured the internet to find my favorite practical gifts for the fitness buff in your life this holiday season – and I hope you can find something just right!

On the first day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a massive 64 ounce water “growler”

On the second day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

two running gloves

On the third day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

three resistance bands

On the fourth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

four monkey-face kettlebells

On the fifth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

five pairs of printed leggings

On the sixth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

six Crossfit dice

On the seventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

seven pairs of rundies

On the eighth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an 8-piece vacuum-seal food container set

On the ninth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

a nine-pocket hanging toiletry bag for the gym

On the tenth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

ten-toed socks

On the eleventh day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

an eleven-dollar stackable protein shake bottle

On the twelfth day of Fit-Mas, my trainer gave to me…

twelve inspirational hair ties

What are you asking for from (fit) Santa?  What healthy gifts do you love to give?

Would Amanda Eat It?

Ah, the holidays.  You are faced with homemade and store-bought treats aplenty, goodies brought home from friends and family, and the occasional late-night slip into Santa’s cookie tray.  It happens.

But what about when your loyal, trusted Trader Joe’s throws a major curveball of deliciousness?

Enter Cookies N’ Cream Cookie Butter, the latest in a series of amazing butters by Mr. Joe (other varieties include original, cocoa swirl, and crunchy).  At first glance, you might think – “well, of course Amanda won’t eat this one” – but read on for my full assessment:

The good:

The bad:

  • it’s a sugar bomb.  But you knew that was coming.  17g per 2TB makes it even worse than eating actual frosting from a can (don’t believe me?  Here’s a frosting label for comparison.)
  • the first ingredient is sugar.  ‘Nuff said.  There’s more sugar than any other ingredient in this product.
  • there are 3.5 grams of saturated fat in a serving, which is about 20% of what you should get in an entire day.  Not great.

The verdict:

  • Ok, obviously I can’t get behind a product that is literally worse for you than eating processed frosting out of a can.  Let’s be real.  But what I can say is that as a sugar substitute in holiday baking (such as these Cookies & Cream Rice Krispie treats), it’s a nice “sometimes” treat when you really want to throw caution to the wind and indulge.

The alternative:

  • Worry not, butter lovers!  You can always make your own cookie butter at home, if it’s the cookie thing you’re seeking, and if it’s more the butter, check out this amazing list of homemade nut butter recipes (yes, even some with chocolate!).  Anytime you can decrease the number of ingredients and preservatives in a food simply by making it yourself, you are taking a step toward better health that starts in your own home.

What food products would you like to see featured on this blog?  Comment here or on FB!

Lasting Lessons from the Organizing Pro

Remember my amazing organizer friend, Teresa?  I’ve written about her before.  And again.  And again.  And sadly, yesterday was my final session with her (at least for now) – because my house is finally – FINALLY! – all organized.

Let me give you a quick review of everything we did together, because in my opinion it was a lot:

Whew.

A full 24 hours (total) spent organizing my house, and what do I have to show for it?  Clean, neatly presented spaces with functional stations, ample storage (we have room to grow in nearly every space), and a feeling of contentment and peace you can only achieve by coming home to – and maintaining – an organized home.

So what did I learn in our final lesson?

First, she really hit home the concept of making “stations” for things we use regularly – in this closet, you’ll see our “supplies” station for paper towels and TP, our easy in/out stclosetation for the Amazon Fresh bags (since those are constantly  taken out and replaced), and a red bin that holds miscellaneous sports equipment (now contained and boxed so it’s not lying out everywhere).  Everything is visible, so we know when it’s time to restock, but also accessible without having to go in a drawer or box.

I should probably mention at this point that I forgot to take “before” pics on this particular visit – which shows you how much fun we were having drinking coffee and organizing to jolly Christmas music.  But had you seen those pictures, you would’ve seen a gigantic wire rack in the guest bathroom, taking up about half the space in there and containing basically nothing but towels and a few guest toiletries.  By cleaning out some space under the sink, we were able to get ALL of our guest towels and accouterments placed there, eliminating the need for an outside rack and making the entire space seem neater, cleaner, and larger.

guestbath2guestbath

But worry not, wire rack fans: Teresa is a huge proponent (and master) of repurposing useful storage/household items – so we took that rack right over to where it was needed – the bar! – and created a stacking system for our empty bargrowlers, bar trays, towels, and mixers.  This freed up almost an entire person-size area behind the bar (you know, so someone could actually tend said bar) and made it look even more professional and functional, which I love, since I do have a huge bar in the middle of the living room.

And finally – not to be forgotten – our little laundry room.  It was noted that we were barely using the (massive) cabinets above the washer and dryer, yet we were cramming towels and other cleaning products under the guest bathroom sink (which, as you’ll note above, is now a minimalist haven of the bare necessities).  We were able to split up the cabinet areas into “laundry supplies” (over the laundrywasher) and cleaning supplies/spare towels (over the dryer) – meaning nothing is sitting on top of the washer/dryer anymore, the space itself is clear and open, and we will never be stuck looking for a dust rag again (they’re all contained in that cute little chevron bin, rather than a crappy pile of stained and dirty rags).

So again – what did I learn from the past two months of having a pro come in and work on my house?  In summary, the top five takeaways from this amazing experience:

  • A place for everything and everything in its place.  Nothing in your house should be put there at random – be intentional with where you store things, don’t let piles build up simply out of convenience, and make sure to always return items to their proper place as quickly as possible to maintain the order.
  • Use storage wisely.  Storage is not a place for junk and crap; rather, storage is a beautiful empty zone where you can put things you don’t want visibily cluttering up your home.  “Storage” is not a synonym for “donation pile” or “garbage,” and the latter two should be dealt with appropriately.
  • Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.  I have a cookie tin full of coffee supplies.  I have two desk organizers on my bathroom countertop, and I have a mudroom shelf holding our towels.  Don’t get hung up on what pieces are “supposed” to be used for or what room they’re designed for; use the items you already have in the house in ways that are outside the box and you’ll find that even ugly things can be beautiful when used for a noble purpose (i.e., organization).
  • Make a to-do list and don’t move on until it’s done.  Each week, Teresa would leave me with a checklist of items for each area (get over-the-door hooks, organize the coats by length, put dresses in a garment bag) and we wouldn’t move on to the next room/area until we had completely finished the one before.  No projects went half-assed or sorta-done.  It took more time (and at times, more money – those velvet hangers ain’t cheap, people), but I was so much happier.
  • Let utility be your guide.  Do you keep your coffee maker in one corner of the kitchen?  Then your mugs, creamers, and filters should be there also.  Do you wash your clothes in the laundry room but fold them in the bedroom?  Keep a small table in your bedroom so you don’t have to throw clothes on the bed.  Think about your processes – logically and step-by-step – and organize your home to follow those steps as closely as possible.  It might not make sense to someone else, but if it works for you, it doesn’t matter – this is your home, after all!

Don’t forget – my wonderful organizing pro (and friend!) is SoCal local – she works all over the L.A. area – so if you want her info, just send me a message on my FB page and I’ll put you in touch!

Have you ever reorganized your home?  What are your favorite cleaning/organizing tips?

Weekend Roundup

I know, I know – I’ve been an absolutely reprehensible blogger this week.  Can I claim wedding stress?  Holiday engagements?  Work ramping up before the break?  Well, whether I can claim those excuses or not, that’s where I’ve been – but now I’m back.

Let’s kick off the weekend with our friendly ol’ roundup – looking around the internets for what I am interested in – and think you’ll really like, too!

If there is a heaven, my dear Spartacus will be waiting for me there.  Even the pope says so.

LA might know sunshine, but NYC knows soup.  Here’s a dozen amazingly seasonal recipes.

If you haven’t picked up your ugly holiday sweater yet, this is your last chance.

I LOVE doing glitter makeup at the holidays, but I always worry about looking like a trashy disco ball.  This tutorial takes the guesswork out of it.

Gift guides are fun because they’re always over-the-top and ridiculous.  This one is for the stylish, high-end yogi in your life – or more likely, in your dreams.

Free online and TV-based personal training?  Yep, NBC is doing it.  And it looks awesome.

Y’all know I love the cheap thrills from Forever 21.  This week they’re so cheap they’re FREE.

What are you reading about and looking at this holiday season?  Leave a link!

Would Amanda Eat It?

I want to thank each and every one of you who submitted a “Would Amanda Eat It?” request via my ThisFitBlonde Facebook page (please “like” if you haven’t already!) – I promise I will try to get to as many as I can as the Tuesdays roll by!

For today, a common one – breakfast cereal.  Cheerios Protein is the new offering from our childhood favorite brand, General Mills.  It comes in two flavors (as far as I can tell) – Oats & Honey and Cinnamon Almond.  For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to focus on the Oats & Honey one today.

The good:

  • Cheerios Protein does, in fact, provide a significant amount more protein than the original Cheerios; 3g in a cup for original; 7g in 1.25 cups (note the larger serving size!) for Cheerios Protein
  • Cheerios Protein is made with lentils, which is great news for fiber (4g versus the 3g in the original Cheerios)
  • like all Cheerios products, the first ingredient is whole grain oats – a grain known to help lower cholesterol and is great as part of a heart-healthy diet

The bad:

  • Sorry, Cheerios “Pro” – you’re a sugar bomb.  At 17g per serving, you’re more than quadrupling the amount of sugar in plain Cheerios – and nearing almost HALF your daily allotment of added sugar (which should be less than 40g, by the way)
  • Cheerios Protein more than doubles the calorie count of plain Cheerios – but only has a 1/4 cup larger serving size – and those calories, as you can guess, are coming straight from sugar
  • The second ingredient on the label is the intentionally vague “cluster” – which in itself contains FIVE distinct types of sugar (sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and caramelized sugar syrup) – and that’s before you get to the other four sugar ingredients, which include Refiner’s Sugar (a fancy name for light molasses) and honey.

The verdict:

  • If you’ve known me from childhood, you’ll know that plain Cheerios were a vital food group for me growing up – and I’ve still been known to sneak a bowl (with almond or coconut milk!) every now and then.  But these fakers?  Never.  General Mills is clearly trying to “trick” the consumer into thinking this product is a healthy source of protein and whole grain – and unfortunately, it is neither.  If you want even more enlightenment on the question of Cheerios Protein, check out Fooducate’s review.

The alternative (newly added feature!):

  • If you crave grains in the morning, try having a bowl of plain old-fashioned oats, sweetened with cinnamon and a touch of honey.  If it’s protein you want, plain Greek yogurt with fruit kicks this cereal’s butt (17g in ONE cup!) and eggs are always a sugar-free powerhouse (6g protein per whole egg; 3.6g per egg white)

Remember, folks – always check labels first; avoid the siren call of the fancy packaging or product naming.  The nutrition label will always give you the “real deal” about sugar, sodium, protein, serving size, saturated fat, and carbohydrates – your go-to nutrients when assessing processed foods.

What do you like to eat for breakfast?  Where do you get your morning protein? 

Flex Friday: Squats & A Six-Pack

It’s #flexfriday again and here at TFB we are ready to get serious!  The holidays are no time to slack on your workouts – but then again, it can be tough to squeeze in your regular program while trying to bake, shop, work, decorate, and get to all the other “to-dos” of the season.

When time gets crunched, it’s important to focus on large muscle groups and short-rest, high-intensity intervals to make the most of a brief workout.  This week’s Flex Friday is called Squats & A Six-Pack, and focuses on the lower body and core (though believe me – your upper body sure gets worked in those planks and squat-thrusts!).

It’s important to make sure you have proper squat form before attempting any of the squat-related exercise below.  For a helpful (and short)! squat tutorial, click here.

For more details on the exercises, click on through below – and remember, great abs are made in the kitchen – so make sure to keep eating clean, drinking water, and limiting sweets & treats to special occasions throughout the holiday season.

squatsixpackSQUATS & A SIX-PACK WORKOUT

20X each of:

Air Squats & V-Ups

Weighted Squats & Bicycle Crunches

Sumo Squats & Straight-Leg Drops

Jump Squats & Knees-to-Elbows Plank

Squat Thrusts & Reverse Crunches

What variation of the squat is your favorite?  Do you prefer crunches, planks, or another way to work your abdominal muscles?

A Tough Trainer’s Christmas Carol

[to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town]

You better work out

You better eat right

You better not slouch

And keep your core tight

This trainer ain’t messing around

She’s making a circuit

You’re doing it twice

She’s gonna find out

If you’ve been working out right

This trainer ain’t messing around

She sees you when you’re slacking

She frowns when you take breaks

She knows if you’ve been bad or good

So just squat, for goodness’ sake

Oh….

You better work out

You better eat right

You better not slouch

And keep your core tight

This trainer ain’t messing around

Are you staying on track with your diet and workouts out this holiday season?

Would Amanda Eat It?

Or perhaps more aptly, for this week: would Amanda drink it?

There’s a trendy beverage going around the health and fitness community, and it has a weird name and an even weirder taste.  It’s called Kombucha.  And if you aren’t sure how to interpret that, let me make it easy for your: it’s drinkable vinegar.

Ok, maybe that’s oversimplifying.  Kombucha is fermented tea, popular for centuries in China and decades in Russia, that has a host of purported health benefits, including live detoxification, arthritis treatment, and gut and immune health (due to the probiotic and antioxidant properties of the beverage).

But let’s cut to the chase: would Amanda eat (drink) it?  Today I’ll be analyzing one of the top Kombucha brands out there – GT – and sticking with the “original” (plain) flavor.

The good:

  • over two billion active probiotic organisms – this stuff is like Greek yogurt without the dairy
  • 20% of all your daily B vitamins (great for energy), plus a 25% kick of folic acid (great for women)
  • low cal (only 60 cals per bottle; 4g sugar)

The bad:

  • the 4g of sugar don’t really “pay off” – it is still very sour, especially in original flavor
  • there are no medically proven health benefits outside of what I mentioned above (healthy bacteria and some vitamins*)
  • too much of a good thing can lead to unfortunate conditions, such as metabolic acidosis and tooth decay (both related to an excess of acid in the body)

The verdict:

  • Yeah, I’d drink some Kombucha – conditionally (through a straw, in small doses  – doctors recommend no more than 4 ounces daily – if I didn’t have access to Greek yogurt, and if I needed the B-vitamin boost).
  • That being said, I personally think it tastes horrid and the carbonation makes it even more abrasive, but if it was between kombucha and say, diet soda – of course I’d choose this, but still in moderation.
  • There is no demonstrated benefit to drinking an entire “serving size” of kombucha offered in these bottles, and due to the lack of pasteurization and slight alcohol content in some of these drinks, they can be harmful for children and pregnant women – so make your own choice about whether kombucha is right for you.

Applications are open for next week’s Would Amanda Eat It – leave your food requests in the comments or hit me up on my Facebook page!

*I had one loyal reader ask me about kombucha with chia, and to that I say – get your chia some other way.  The drinks with chia are only adding texture and sugar calories (more than double the plain stuff).  I say drop the chia in your oatmeal or blend it into a green juice for a healthier dose.