Alternative Brownies . . . with avocado!

Ok, who doesn’t love a good brownie? And one that’s healthy for you, too?! #majorlywinning

Check out my video for healthy alternative brownies, using avocado instead of oil. This change makes your brownies forever ooey gooey . . . not to add, packed with all of the benefits avocados bring to the table.

Under the video, I have listed just what you’ll need to make your very own alternative brownies.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup wheat/almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 8 oz mashed avocado (2 avocados)

Method

Preheat oven to 275F. Whisk eggs first until a unified consistency is achieved. Add in sugar and continue to whisk. Add additional ingredients and mix all together.

Pour mix into a lightly oiled, 8-inch baking pan (square).

Bake for 55 minutes, checking for consistency periodically. Once complete, set out to let cool off (about 5-7 minutes).

Cut into desired square sizes and top off with your favorite light ice cream ( I used Target’s light ice cream – yum! And only 12g of sugar – double yum!)

 

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Healthy Eats Series: Lyfe Kitchen


Although I prep my meals for most of the week, there are times when I like to go out to eat, while not making too much of a dent in my goals – or my pocket.

First on the list of the Healthy Eats Series is Lyfe Kitchen.

With a wide array of healthfully filling plates to choose from and natural, amazingly refreshing juice options, Lyfe Kitchen has my heart as my favorite healthy-to-go meals restaurant.

What should I order?

There’s so much to choose from! Everything is amazing! From their Margherita flatbread, to their farmhouse burger, no matter what you choose, your stomach (and taste buds) will leave satisfied.

My preferred dish is the Art’s Unfried Chicken. For $12, you get a lightly panko-breaded chicken breast served over a bed of Brussels sprouts, butternut squash – adorned with dried cranberries, finished off with a cashew cream sauce and Dijon vinaigrette (insert praise-hands emoji).


I also ordered a kale and cranberry salad.

One of my favorite features about the Lyfe Kitchen menu is that they share the calories and sodium measurement of each dish. That way, if you’re sodium-conscious or are looking for more heart-healthy options, you’re able to easily gauge what your choices are. This has personally helped me, as I like to watch the daily amount of sodium I consume.


My next favorite menu item is their cucumber mint water. On this particular day, I couldn’t decide between cucumber mint and the orange ginger chia . . . So I mixed them both. And let me tell you, not bad. Not bad AT ALL!

Another one of the reasons I love this restaurant is the decor and atmosphere. I would describe the interior as a futuristic blast from the past. Mixing bright, straight-lined furniture with a proud and vibrant display of fresh-grown herbs, you’ll feel like you’re in a modern, seaside cafe in Cali.

So the next time you’re looking for a healthy place to eat, with filling – and might I add, inexpensive – meal options, give Lyfe Kitchen a try! You (and your taste buds) will thank me later.

Next topic: Mmmmm, let’s see!

The Perfect Playlist

IMG_7301.PNGIt’s Monday morning. You get out of the bed, get your workout gear on and you’re out the door for early cardio. No need to describe your energy level . . . because Monday. But you need to get your blood pumping, raise your energy levels – you need motivation to power through this workout! Other than a possible pre-workout, you need the perfect playlist!

There’s nothing like good music to get your adrenaline going and ready to smash your cardio session.

Today, I’m sharing my ‘perfect playlist’ for my morning, fasted-cardio. Although I didn’t want to initially, I decided to pay for Apple Music . . . (more money for Apple, *slight eye roll*). I can’t be happier with this service. It has helped me discover new music and rekindle my love for tunes I may have forgotten about.

Here’s my current “Morning Cardio” playlist. Maybe this will spark your musical interest and help you develop your very own playlist. Let’s conquer these cardio sessions together! – ok, and with great music!

Sancocho’s Playlist:

  1. Kiiara – Gold
  2. Charly Black – Bruk Out
  3. Lady Gaga – Perfect Illusion
  4. Mavado – Fiesta
  5. Chace & Moksi – For a Day
  6. Jidenna – Little Bit More
  7. Kero Uno – Princess Diamond (feat. Kelsey Bulkin)
  8. Calvin Harris – This Is What You Came For (feat. Rihanna)
  9. Fifth Harmony – All In My Head (Flex) [feat. Fetty Wap]
  10. Kanye West – Fade
  11. Ariana Grande – Side To Side (feat. Nicki Minaj)
  12. Sia – Cheap Thrills (feat. Sean Paul)
  13. DJ Khaled – Work for It (feat. Big Sean, Gucci Mane & 2 Chainz) -this is when I’m in my ZONE
  14. Daddy Yankee – Vaiven
  15. Craig David – Ain’t Giving Up
  16. Dawn Richard – Faith
  17. Desiigner – Panda -my ULTRA zone
  18. Jah Wayne – Get Mad
  19. KCee – Do It (feat. Timaya)
  20. Kiesza – Hideaway
  21. Konshens – Just Dance Yah Gyal
  22. Major Lazer – Come On To Me (feat. Sean Paul)
  23. Major Lazer – Light It Up (feat. Nyla & Fuse ODG) [Remix]
  24. Mr. Vegas – Party Tun Up (feat. Sean Paul, Fatman Scoop) – try some sprints with this one!
  25. P-Square – Personally
  26. RDX – Drop
  27. Rihanna – Where Have You Been
  28. Spice – So Mi Like It
  29. Andinho do Rodo – Tudo 2
  30. Wisin – Que Viva la Vida
  31. Talento.com – Eu Boto Eu Tiro
  32. Kent Jones – Alright
  33. Austin Mahone – Mmm Yeah (feat. Pitbull)

Now, if this playlist doesn’t get you moving, I don’t know what will!

What are some of your favorite songs? What gets you in the zone when doing cardio, or even weight training? Drop your comments below!

Next topic: Healthy Eats when Eating Out – Series: Lyfe Kitchen

Special shoutout to @melbell51 for inspiring this post!

 

Breakfast prep: Egg Muffins

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I used to despise the simple thought of breakfast. But as I continued learning more along my fitness journey, I not only recognized its necessity in getting my day properly started, I began to LOVE the simple thought of eating breakfast . . . I admit, I go to sleep at night, anticipating what I will have for breakfast the next morning.

In the previous post, I showed you how I like to meal prep. Today, you will get the recipe for one of the meals from my weekly prep, Egg Muffins!

Get ready to go and stock up on the needed groceries for this recipe because I know you’ll want to try this out!

I will give you what you need to prep these babies out for a full week.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 8 eggs (or just 4, separating the yolk)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 slices of Gouda (cut into strips) or 1/4 cup shredded
  • 1 cup prepared pico de gallo
  • 4 slices turkey bacon (cut into strips)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • olive oil (see below)
  • muffin pan

Method:

Preheat oven to 350F. With a paper towel, take a measure of olive oil to grease the muffin pan – the muffin pan I use is non-stick, so I didn’t need to add that much olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg whites until there is a unified consistency. Add in all other ingredients and stir in salt (to taste). Take a spoon, or smaller measuring cup and pour in egg mixture. Be sure to only fill each section only 3/4s of the way, as the egg mixture will rise while cooking – and we don’t want it to overflow, spilling out into the oven only to fill your house with the smell of burned eggs . . . ugh.

Once your oven has reached the desired temperature, pop in your muffins, set the timer for 28 minutes and let these little puppies cook!

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Once time is up, check muffins for consistency as you would when baking a cake – sticking a toothpick (or slim knife) in a couple of muffins. If nothing comes off on the toothpick (or knife), you’re good. If so, put muffins back in the oven for a couple more minutes until completely done . . . although you’re prepping these for the week and have to heat each serving up each morning . . . they’ll finish cooking that way for sure.

After taking the muffins out of the oven, sit them aside and let them cool for 5 minutes. Once cool, pack them up in your daily containers (I pack three muffins per serving) and consider your breakfast for the week prepped! Enjoy with a side of toast and avocado!

What do you think about the recipe? What would you add/take away? Comment below!

Next topic: The Perfect Playlist – just the right music to get you moving.

#MealprepMonday (or Sunday)


You’re at work, noon hits and your stomach growls as if it were mad at the world. You realize you haven’t eaten breakfast, and you definitely didn’t bring lunch. What do you do?

Well, there is a vending machine just down the hall in your desk.

Or, you could go right up the street to your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant. You know. The one where everyone knows your name…and order…the moment you walk in the door. At least I have a couple of spots close to work like that.

But, now that you’ve made healthy eating and exercise a part of your daily routine, neither one of these options would really help.

So, what to do?

This is a challenge I faced during my weight loss journey – and it’s a challenge I sometimes still have daily. But now that I’ve started “meal prepping” on Monday (or sometimes Sunday), I rarely can rely on the excuse of bad eating when it comes to me not reaching my fitness goals for the week, or month ahead.. I already have everything prepared!

Doesn’t meal prep take forever? 

Answer: if you plan everything out right, meal prep could be one of the easiest things you do all week.

The picture of amazing food you see at the top of the article shows what a typical week of meal prep would be for me.

What’s on my menu?

  • Breakfast: egg muffins | multigrain and sprouted toast (not pictured: avocado for my toast!)
  • Snack: apple | handful almonds (not pictured)
  • Lunch: 1 cup brown basmati rice | 5oz. pan-seared chicken breast on a bed of kale, broccoli and cabbage (2 cups)
  • Pre-workout snack: multigrain and sprouted toast with peanut butter (not pictured)
  • Dinner (not pictured): 6oz. chicken | 2 cups kale, broccoli and cabbage | Bolthouse Farms Blue Cheese dressing 

Method:

  • Saturday, I make my list of groceries and head to the nearest Aldi, Walmart or Target – can’t wait until our Trader Joes is finally opened!
  • I’ll usually buy the supply of protein and grains I’ll need for the next two weeks. Throughout the week, I’ll freshen up my supply of veggies (as needed).
  • On Sunday morning or Monday evening, I set aside about two hours (30min. for prep. About 1.5hr for cooking) – and a glass of wine if it’s Monday night.
  • Simultaneously I put the rice to cook in the rice cooker. I’ll cut up and season the protein (chicken, steak and/or fish), put it in the wok and leave to cook. For the veggies, I’ll heat up the skillet, add olive or coconut oil to quickly sauté everything. I’ll usually leave this as the last step of the prep.
  • After cleaning up my workspace, I leave everything to cook – attending to it periodically. Within an hour or so, everything is done and it’s time to pack up your food for the week…and finish that glass of wine.
  • The containers I’m currently using for prep (and my favorites I might add) are the Rubbermaid Takealongs.
  • I prepare food for Monday/Tuesday through Friday, since it is recommended to preserve most foods for up to 4 days in the fridge. If you feel that you will not consume the rest of your prepped meals for the week, pop them in the freezer! Those containers are freezer safe.

Using this method, I meal prep my breakfast, lunch and, sometimes, dinner for the week – although I sometimes enjoy getting home from work and/or teaching class to prepare dinner.

Setting aside a couple of hours on a Sunday or Monday can save you time and money for the rest of the week by avoiding the chore of cooking daily, or being defeated by the thought of the task and opting to eat out instead (although in an upcoming blog series, I’ll show you some of my favorite spots to grab a healthy meals when time just isn’t on your side for meal prep). The most important point, you eliminate the temptation of eating badly throughout the week, therefore keeping you on track for your fitness goals! For me, meal prep is always a win-win.

Are you now ready for #mealprep?

Next topic: the recipe to those awesome little egg muffins!

 

#TransformationTuesday: The Struggle. The Victory.

fullsizerender-7Can you imagine waking up daily, not being satisfied with your image, feeling self-conscious every time you passed the line of sight of another human being, while wondering if you were cutting your life short by your eating and activity – or lack there of?

The guy on the left was 19 years old, insecure and headed down a dark path of unhealthy choices . . . oh, and I forget to mention, 296lbs. With a known family history of health problems related to weight, I knew I needed to make a change, and make one in that very moment!

I’ve never been one to feel and remain defeated. As any other human being, when we know we have to make changes in our life, we pass through the phase of self-doubt, pity and paralysis . . . But that only lasts so long before action must be taken.

So, I organically developed a plan to change my life . . .

Upon graduating high school and entering college, I made use of the campus gym. Since I had early-morning classes (snore), I woke up around 5:00am to make it to the gym by 5:30. I would swim or do the elliptical as my cardio, and I would lift weights using plans I found on Bodybuilding.com. I followed that routine for about a year and a half . . . and made it down to 275lbs. I still needed to correct another area in my life – my eating.

As a college student, you can only imagine the things I consumed . . . One of my go-to meals was Cup Ramen – I’d eat FOUR a day. Just in case you didn’t know, one cup of those has over 1,400mg of sodium; well over the suggested serving per meal. Major “whoops” in my planning.

In 2009, I visited my first Zumba Fitness class with an amazing instructor, Imelda LaChica (@nufitdiva). Being familiar with the Latin music used to teach the class, I automatically fell in love with the workout format and visited the class, starting out once, to twice a week. In 2010, I became an instructor.

Teaching the format was and is my passion! Teaching Zumba took me from 275lbs to 235lbs within my first year . . . but I still couldn’t get my eating under control (Eye.Roll).

I had a talk with my Zumba mentor, Maria Browning (@maria_browning_healthy_body) and she let me know that in order to continue inspiring my students and others, I needed to make further changes in my diet and exercise. Now of course, my pride was hurt a bit and I sank back into that “feeling sorry for myself” phase. But I realized Maria was right! And you know what? Challenge accepted.

Throughout 2010, I started looking up healthy recipes online, cooking (to the best of my ability) and making healthier choices when eating out.

Side note: how did I have the money to eat out as a college student?!

And in 2011, the year of my college graduation, I decided to gift myself a personal trainer! BEST decision made since the start of my journey.

My first trainer was a beast! He taught me how to take my shape from “a toothpaste tube” to a more athletic build. There were MANY days and nights I left the gym after training with him, feeling like I was going to puke myself inside out . . . But I knew that if I wanted to undo what I’d done to my body over the years, I had to put in work! My trainer also coached my eating habits by helping me meal plan and really taking charge of my food consumption. In May 2011, I weighed 232lbs. By July 2011, with my trainer, I dropped to 183lbs 

That July, I saw Maria – my Zumba mentor – and her reaction . . . one that I’ll never forget. Seeing her face of contentment, knowing that her words of encouragement didn’t fall on deaf ears showed ALL over her face. I will forever cherish her pushing me.

Inspired by my changes, I decided to keep the progress going! In 2012-2013, I dropped to and maintained 170lbs. I kept up my healthy eating, increased the number of classes I taught, as well as trained harder with weights. I FINALLY obtained the “beach body” I only dreamed of during most of my teen years.

My mother said, “when you weighed more, we couldn’t get you to take your shirt off at the beach. Now that you’ve lost weight, we can’t get you to keep your clothes, let alone a SHIRT, on!”

She wasn’t lying . . .

I was on the road to progress and “feeling myself?” So much to the point that I decided that I would do a fitness competition – competing in the Men’s Physique category of the sport. But in 2014, our family faced a series of difficulties that completely discouraged and derailed my progress. Sometimes, you have to pull back and prioritize where your efforts should be channeled . . . and mine needed to be with my family at that time.

When I built my courage back up and decided that it was OK to continue, I jumped back on the wagon and . . . wait for it . . . joined a team of body builders! My coach, Farsha (@farshajones) whipped me into shape and pushed me BEYOND where I thought I could ever take myself! I placed 5th in my first competition! Since then, I’ve taken a seat on the bench until I’m ready to tackle another competition – but, I’m getting the bug again.

During my break, I decided that I actually needed to pack on a bit more weight to get back to a more muscular and full build. I went through a bulking phase until February 2015 – reaching 205lbs, and then shredded down to a solid 180 by summer . . . just in time for a photo shoot . . .

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Summer 2015: Fitness Shoot

I really thought  I was something then . . . heck, I’d worked HARD to get to where I was! Why not get a few shots snapped for marketing – ok, and Instagram – use?

After the shoot and that summer, it was time to pack on a little more weight to gain a bit more muscle mass. Bulking phase 2.0!

I continued that phase for 6 months, and slowly decreased my calorie intake to cut down for the following spring and summer . . . Bringing us to now, (almost fall) 2016.

As I write this post, I relive all of the emotions felt during my journey – a journey from which one will never graduate, only improve. Some emotions were joyous. Others I’d rather not relive nor recount. Yet, I realize the journey is all about the good, the bad and the ugly.

In your journey, you will face MANY challenges. But for every challenge you face, please know that you will celebrate at least five more victories. As the saying goes . . .

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. . . but so is your determination!

So where are you in your journey? At the beginning? At a plateau? At a crossroads? Wherever you may find yourself, know that going forward is always the hardest, yet most rewarding choice.

Getting a trainer may not be a choice for everyone, but if your have a smartphone, there are several inexpensive, or even free, apps out now to help get you moving! And if buying the food and prepping it is your challenge, just wait for our next post.

So, what’s your #transformationtuesday story? Drop it (be)low!

Next topic: Meal Prep Monday

Morning cardio: the love/hate relationship


Your alarm clock sounds around 5am . . . You then begin to negotiate your goals, “Do I wake up now? I want to see abs by X amount of days! But, I’m so tired! Although yesterday, I ate that extra piece of pizza.” And the conversation with ourselves continues.

After five minutes of listening to our most annoying alarm-clock tone, we put both feet on the ground, our bodies into our workout gear and we’re off to the gym (or outside for a run).

For the first five minutes: While on the elliptical, treadmill – for sprints, or the dreaded, but ever-so-effective stairclimber, we repeat that same conversation with ourselves we had while waking up.

Shortly thereafter, since we have the bomb playlist, we get into the grove of our routine, and before we know it, our 20-30 minutes of morning cardio is done! 

With something that requires such a struggle to complete, why do we even bother waking up at the crack of dawn, only to torture ourselves – or at least, that’s the way it seems at the time – by running, sprinting or doing HIIT?

Personal success with morning cardio: I can’t think of anything worse than getting out of my bed before 6:15am. Yet, I realize how busy my day will become and, as most of us have experienced, exercise usually takes a backseat to whatever task we have for the day. So, I’ve decided that 5:00am workouts are the only way for me to get in, at least, my cardio.

Benefits:

  • I do what is called “fasted-cardio.” Any cardio-based exercise I do in the mornings – sprints, stair stepper, HIIT – is done on an empty stomach. I do this because I’ve seen the personal benefits of burning more fat, since the energy I’m working on comes from my body’s stored fat source. Have you tried fasted-cardio?
  • Since we’ve already admitted that our days can get pretty hectic, why not go to sleep a bit earlier in the night (still working on that part) in order to wake up earlier to knock out a great workout? That would be one less (essential) thing we could mark off our never-ending list of to-dos.
  • Influencing healthy decisions: since we’ve already decided to start off our day with cardio – or even a full workout – we surely wouldn’t ruin our efforts by gorging on a breakfast (or any other meal) high in fats, carbs, sugars, etc., right? Commencing our day with healthy activity usually sets the pattern of healthy decisions in food and activity choices for the rest of the day.

So even though I’d rather comfortably watch grass grow on any given day, while sipping on lemonade, starting my day off with cardio/exercise has proved to be the most effective way for me to lose and keep weight off – all while influencing my daily decisions.

These are just some of the benefits I’ve experienced from morning (fasted) cardio. What are your opinions/experiences? Would you recommend a different route for your personal goals? Share your inspiration below!

Next topic: my journey from 296lbs to 170lbs.