Since I’ve been craving salty snacks, I decided I’d make a salty, meaty protein snack similar to beef jerky. This is whey Vaca Frita came to mind. Vaca Frita, which literally means “Fried Cow”, is one of my favorite cuban dishes. Basically, it’s just shredded flank steak and onion cooked in lime juice and then seared with oil on a griddle until crispy – so it’s not so healthy, but super yummy.
So, I started brainstorming on ways to make a healthier version of this yummy Cuban dish. Since I LOVE grilled chicken (because I love the crispy charred flavor), I decided to make a grilled version of Vaca Frita with chicken. Here was what I cooked up.
Vaca Pollo Ingredients
- 4 Chicken Breasts
- 1/2 onion, finely slivered
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 bay leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (Optional)
- Freshly ground pepper
Cook 4 chicken breasts (I grilled them on the grill after marinading them in lime juice and olive oil). While cooking the chicken, cut the onion up into really thin slivers and set it aside.
(Note: I didn’t use as much onion as I would like to because I wanted to make it as high-protein as possible while I’m dieting.)
Next, in a mixing bowl, mix lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper and bay leaves (and the optional olive oil, which I didn’t use). Once the chicken has been cooked all the way through (keeping it nice and juicy, but not worrying about it being browned or charred on the grill). Shred the chicken up into small pieces and combine with the onion and lime juice mixture until evenly mixed.
Finally, spread the shredded chicken out evenly on tinfoil. Mist with olive oil and dust with salt. Place it back on the grill (I turned my grill up really hot to quickly brown the chicken without over-drying it), occasionally stirring the chicken so it browns as many pieces as possible. Remove when you feel the chicken is crispy but not dehydrated, and let cool. Serve with wedge of lime.
3 Ways to Enjoy Vaca Pollo
Vaca Pollo Snack:
Let the meat cool. Measure out 2oz portions and put in ziplock bags for an easy-access high-protein snack.
Vaca Pollo Salad:
Top mixed greens with 3 – 4oz shredded chicken, 2 T goat cheese and 1/c cup finely sliced pear and top with a light balsamic vinaigrette.
Vaca Pollo Meal:
Top 1/2 cup jasmine rice with 3 – 4oz shredded chicken and serve with a healthy serving of grilled asparagus.
When I want to enjoy a hot meal, but I don’t want a lot of whole food in my stomach, I go the soup route. The fluid fills me up, without putting a lot of whole food through my stomach. As a result, I eat fewer calories and my stomach flattens out. I headed to the kitchen, looked to see what I had and started creating. Here’s basically what I came up with.
Please note: I didn’t measure as I went. I was just shaking, dumping and stirring stuff in, using what I had in the pantry and doing what I do best – make stuff up as I go along. I tried to guestimate what I did after I realized I probably should share what was brewing – especially since it was SO yummy and only 107 calories a cup, 8.5gm protein, 15.6 carbs and 1.2g fat! 🙂 Feel free to adjust the seasonings, water and lemon juice to fit your tastes. As for the 2 cans of soup. I often use a can of soup as a base for my pot-luck soups. You can use pretty much any vegetable soup as a base, or skip it altogether and just add more seasoning, diced tomatoes, bullion or powdered soup mix. 🙂
Tangy Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe
DIET TIP: Scan food as you cook to track calories in your LoseIt app. Remember to adjust serving size to match the ENTIRE can or food product.
4 Chicken Breast pulled (boiled in lemon or lime juice, water, salt and seasonings)
(1-2 Cups of the broth from that soup can be used for the base)
1 1/2 Cup Yellow Corn (limit corn to limit calories)
1 Can Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 Can of Vegetable Beef Soup (that’s just what I happened to have)
3-4 Cans Water (depending on desired thickness)
2 Cans of Black Beans (dieters use 1 can)
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes
1 Can of Dices Green Chiles
1 Cup Yellow Rice (optional)
3 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1/3 Cup Lime or lemon Juice
1/3 Cup Sonny’s Sweet BBQ Sauce (optional – gives a chipotle taste)
1 1/1 tsp Splenda or Stevia
Fresh Cilantro (to taste)
A few shakes of Red Pepper
Salt to taste
Should Make Approximately 23 1/2 Cups
Boil the chicken until the chicken falls apart. Chop it up, pull it apart and combine it with all other ingredients in a huge pot. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for a couple of hours. The longer it stews, the more flavor the chicken and veggies will have. Don’t do final tasting until it has cooked for a while. The taste of the broth will change as it adopts the flavors of the tomatoes, chicken, corn, black beans and green chiles. Once it has had a chance to simmer for a while, then you can determine if it needs more lemon or lime juice, or seasonings.
After I finished cooking it, I measured out (one cup at a time) into a tupperware container to find out how many cups it made. Add more chicken to increase protein, or decrease corn and beans to decrease carbs. You can add sliced avocado on top as a garnish if you want to increase fats. The key is finding out what your diet needs and making adjustments to fit your needs.
One cup makes a great snack. 1.5-2 cups is a filling meal!
Beef up the meal and protein by combining 1 cup of soup with 3 oz side of chicken for a 277 calories, 31g protein, 27gm carbs and 5g fat. (pie graph above shows the breakdown of nutrients)
DIET TIP: LOWER CALORIES EVEN MORE
Use 1 can of black beans (instead of 2), 3/4 cup of corn (instead of 1 1/2 cup) and no rice (instead of 1 cup), and you’ll reduce your calories to 78 calories per cup. (29 calories less – lower carb). Add broccoli to add more fiber and consistency with fewer calories.
Sometimes you just want a nice cool crisp pasta salad to munch on that isn’t loaded with calories. Yesterday was one of those days, so I whipped this little creation together and it came out super yummy!
Box of Rotini Whole Grain Pasta
1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 1/2 Cup Sliced Cherry Tomatoes
1 Cup of Chopped Scallions
1 Chopped Green Pepper
28 Slices of Turkey Pepperoni (14 slices per serving)
1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 Teaspoon of Minced Garlic
Salt & Cracked Pepper (to taste)
Balsamic Vinegar Glaze
Boil the pasta as directed. Drain the pasta and let it cool. Add all the cold ingredients and chill for nibbling later! Drizzle with the balsamic glaze and serve! I added diced grilled chicken (seen here in this pic)! YUM!
If I had a nickel for everyone struggling with their weight who responds with “I eat really healthy” when I ask them how many calories they eat. What that means is – they have no clue how many calories they are eating. But they want me to know how clean they eat and how hard they work in the gym, so they can try to convince me they are the exception to the rule and that they are just unable to lose weight like everyone else. This is when the Red Flag Goes Up.
Listen, I’m not saying everyone has to count calories. I’m also not saying eating healthy is wrong. Gosh no! Eating healthy is AMAZING – and can change your life. BUTTTTTT… what I AM saying is, if you have no idea how many calories you are eating, there is no way you can expect to lose weight. Guessing just doesn’t work. Eating clean alone probably won’t change the scale much. Eating organic can be super healthy, but not affect your waistline. Going on the next fad diet won’t always work either. Working out like a maniac alone won’t cut it either. (again, I’m not saying it NEVER works – some people will luck out and lose weight by just making healthier choices, but most people will not be as lucky)
When it comes to weight loss, most people can’t get results just on making healthier choices alone. The only way weight loss works is when you eat fewer calories than you are burning. You can either just HOPE you are eating less than you are burning, or you can count calories and KNOW you are eating less than you are burning.
If you can’t tell me how many calories you are eating every day, don’t tell me how healthy you eat, don’t tell me you never eat fried food or sweets, don’t tell me how much protein you consume, don’t tell me how you don’t eat carbs or how you’ve gone Paleo. While all of those things are great, and I bet your next doctor’s visit will be a good one, they tell me nothing when it comes to whether you should expect to lose weight or not.
How Much Did You Spend?
Here’s an example: Let’s say I just come home from shopping. I bring all my bags in the house and Steve’s eyeballs pop out of his head and he says “How much did you spend?” and my response was, “I shopped at Target. All the items I got were on sale. I didn’t buy anything outrageously expensive. I didn’t get anything frivolous – everything I bought I really needed and was very practical. I made a lot of smart choices.” I can tell you right now, Steve’s response would still be “so, how much did you spend?”
You see, Steve doesn’t care what I bought, he wants to know how much I bought ($$$$). He doesn’t care how how much stuff was on sale. Our check will bounce whether it was a smart choice or a dumb one. We either have the money or we don’t – whether I needed the items or not. All my bank account cares about is what’s coming in and what’s going out – it doesn’t care what I am spending the money on or how hard I work for the deposits.
This is how your body works. While healthy food will help your body look and feel better, your weight is your body’s account balance. You can either afford items, or not. If you can’t afford the extra calories (whether it’s in Snickers bars or grilled chicken and rice), you will gain weight.
So, next time you want to feel sorry for yourself for eating so clean, but not losing weight, it’s time you start managing your body’s account like you manage your checkbook. 🙂
Are You Up for the Challenge?
Not everyone needs to count calories. Some people are lucky enough to be able to make smart choices (because they really enjoy eating low-calorie foods) and do well managing their weight naturally. Some people are able to make healthier choices simply because they don’t struggle with some of the temptations others struggle with. HOWEVER, if you battle overeating, binging, sweets, carbs, laziness or yo-yo dieting, I believe you should count your calories to help you stay accountable and manage portions, high-calorie items and exercise. Remember, it’s not something you have to do forever – but it will teach you SO much!
If you have tried eating better, eating smaller portions, working out more, etc but you’ve reached a plateau, maybe it’s time you start counting calories. You’ll be AMAZED with the results! Believe me, I’ve seen this time and time again – and I’ve watched people who have worked insanely hard not get results until they started counting calories. Are you ready to start moving that scale?! Commit to counting calories for 30 days. Unsure you can do it? Start with 14 days of calorie counting and then decide if you can do another 14 days then. I bet you surprise yourself!
Visit www.LoseIt.com today and download their app on your smartphone. I promise, it can change your life forever.
Memorial Day weekend here was amazing. The weather was perfect for the beach – and I made sure I got in a little sand and sun every single day. I call it beach therapy! As I drove home from a relaxing day at the beach yesterday, driving with the top down, the whole town smelled like one big cook out. By the smell of it, Memorial Day proved to be a big grill day – and I wasn’t going to be left out. Burgers were on my mind.
So, I decided to do some grilling of my own. What I WANTED was hamburgers, homemade french fries, cole slaw, sweat baked beans and all that fun cookout fare. BUT, what I DECIDED TO COOK was much healthier. I was in the mood for a burger with a kick, and a side of something fun and low-cal. I searched the web and found this mexican slaw at TLC’s How Stuff Works, and decided it would be fun to try something new.
I wish I had measured everything for you (but I never measure anything when I’m in creation mode! So the measurements below are just a guestimation, and probably on the light side.) But, hopefully, this will give you some ideas for your own spicy healthy burger. 🙂
Ground Turkey (I’m not sure how many pounds I bought, but it was a LOT)
1 Chopped Onion
1 T Fajita or Taco Seasoning
2 T Red Pepper Flakes
1 T McCormick’s Chipolte Seasoning
1 T Minced Garlic
Lots of Cilantro
Hot Sauce to taste (I used 1/4 cup or so)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Click HERE to get the full cooking instructions. PS: It is supposed to have crispy tortilla strips in it, but I wanted to save calories so I skipped it.
|1/4||teaspoon chili powder|
|1||Bag of shredded Slaw mix green cabbage|
|(with cabbage, carrots, red and green cabbage)|
|1/2||cup corn kernels|
|1/4||cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro|
|1/4||cup fat-free mayonnaise (I use Kraft Mayo Light)|
|1||tablespoon lime juice|
|2||teaspoons cider vinegar|
|1||teaspoon honey (I used Stevia)|
|1/2||teaspoon ground cumin|
|1/4||teaspoon black pepper|
YUMMY IN MY TUMMY! – and more than HALF the calories of a regular cookout! I plan to use the leftover slaw as a topping for fish tacos, sandwiches and salads.
Most of us have done this before. We skip a few workouts, and before you know it, we are eating crappy, eating too much, feeling fat, and just eating more and more. Here are 3 chemical reasons why we EAT MORE when we skip our workouts – and if you think about it, these same reasons are also often times why we WORKOUT LESS.
1. WE ARE TIRED. Ironically, one of the reasons we skip workouts is because we are too tired. However, many times we still don’t give our body the rest it needs to recover. We continue to go, go, go. Since calories are energy, some experts say our body craves calories because it knows it will wake us up and energize us. However, what we probably need is just a really good night sleep so we wake up refreshed and energized the healthy way.
2. WE ARE STRESSED. Many times we skip a workout because we are stressed out and can’t focus. When we are stressed, we often don’t feel like being around people and we just want to hide – so extra social events like going to the gym get the ax. Also, the more people are stressed, the less they sleep. So #1 is already in play. Researchers say that when we are stressed our body releases more cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Some reports indicate that increased cortisol is linked to increased belly fat and increased cravings. Then there is just the “woe, is me” part. The more stressed we get, the more sorry we feel for ourselves, and the more we decide we deserve the ice cream because it’s been “such a rough day”. The best way to combat stress, is sleep and exercise. If you want to combat stress eating, you have to combat the stress.
3. WE ARE BORED. We are too tired to workout and to stressed to think – so we plop down on the couch to “relax”. Since we skipped our workout, we actually have MORE time to do nothing (and more time to eat!). Although we probably should go to bed, we don’t, because we don’t like missing out on anything. Instead, we stalk Instagram, check facebook, tweet a couple of folks, surf, or turn on the good ole boob tube. These things stimulate us enough to keep us awake enough to not miss anything, but not relaxed enough to get the rest our body needs.
Like Ricky Bobby said in Talladega Nights, “I’m not sure what to do with my hands?” we don’t know how to stay still. We rarely sit that still – and as soon as we do, we want to be entertained. Normally, that includes food. Again, if you want to prevent boredom eating, tackle #1 so you aren’t too tired to spend time exercising, tackle #2 so you aren’t craving food and work on #3 and limit your “still time” or learn how to control your hands – and your tongue. 🙂
Break the Cycle
Sadly, if we don’t break the cycle, the more we eat, the more depressed we get – and that fuels more lack of sleep, more stress and more boredom because we normally retreat. We also feel hopeless because we feel too far away from our goal. Instead of looking at why we eat crappier when we workout less, let’s look at why we eat better when we workout more.
When we workout, we work HARD to burn calories. Since just how hard we worked is fresh in our head, we are less likely to sabotage that work. The key is, it has to be a regular thing. It’s not like we can work hard last week and that be enough to make us want to protect last week’s investment. Muscle soreness, being in the gym, being around other inspiration people and sweating your butt off TODAY is what you need to help give you the motivation you need to eat right TODAY.
Sometimes, that feeling is enough to last you a couple of days – but once you’ve missed a bunch of days, forget it. We lose that connection between work and calories. It not real enough to us anymore. That’s also why it’s much harder to diet without exercise. Exercise is like your job and food is like your money. You’ll never be frugal with free money, but if you work hard for it, you’ll be a lot more cautious how you spend it. This is also why the work must be a little tough. When you work REALLY hard for something, you bet you’ll be a lot less likely to blow that hard work on a something silly. One, because you realize all the hard work you just did and, two, because you don’t want to do any more of that than you have too.
Let the People Speak
Here’s what others had to say about why they think they eat more when they workout less.
Alexie Elizabeth Messer I think it is because when we are working out we realize the effort we have out in that day and don’t want to ruin/negate it by over eating. In short we are just more conscious of our bodies when working out.
Patti Ambrosia McLean We figure might as well… Sadly we want instant results. Not possible
Robert Phoenix At heart we are hunters, gatherers & scavengers. Its deeply routed in our genetics. This is at odds with modern day living. We are programmed to search & forage for food. When we exercise we burn fat & calories. If we dont exercise insulin levels rise in the body to convert the excess food we eat into fat & store it, we become “insulin tolerant” & used to the rising levels of insulin & the body desires more food to counterract the increased insulin levels. We are also more likely to desire unhealthy foods as the insulin tolerance increases. Also mentality plays a big part. By saying “no” to specific foods you want them more so this doesn’t work well. The word “Diet” is overused & has become an instrinsic part of our vocabulary which is detrimental because it suggests to the body that we are “depriving” ourselves of food which makes the hunter/gatherer/scavenger inside us become a defense mechanism & make us want more food. I could go on…
Tamara Grand For me, the two go together. I’m more mindful of my body and how it feels when I’m exercising daily and the link between food and fuel is stronger!
Alex Cartwright Pretty sure it’s chemical…we aren’t getting the endorphin rush we’d receive from a good workout so we try to get it from food.
Tommy Arenas i work hard labor” then feel 2 tired 2 wrkout” sumtimz i just eat & crash”
Laurie Duncan It’s a survival mechanism.
Charise Charly McOmber I’d love to know. There are times when I can be right on target, never a slip. But I’ve gone through a period of swearing I’m going to make it today eating clean and then break every rule. I don’t get it.
Chris Nicodemus I disagree sorry , the More I Train the More I Eat, Like a Furnace Fueling the Fire
Amanda Marciniak Mazey did that today, I could not stop eating and couldn’t be bothered with working out, now I feel sick and yet even tho I’m not hungry feel the urge to eat
It’s been so quiet here at PFITblog for the last week. Why? Because I was on VACAAAATION!! Woo Hoo! But now I’m back and I’m ready to type until my fingers bleed! 😉
After our Team Max group (pictured above with me in the center) competed in the NPC Southeast Classic on April 6th, Steve and I jumped on a cruise ship and headed for Mexico. To be honest, I was a little nervous about going on vacation. Not because of the recent Carnival cruise disasters, but because I was afraid of the enormous amount of food I’d be facing and I didn’t want to blow all my hard work. Cruises are known for their never-ending buffets and all-you-can-eat gourmet meals.
On prior cruises, I remember the amazing food and knew I’d be tempted to go crazy. Surprisingly, either my taste buds have changed or my emphasis on food has changed. I honestly missed clean eating and was craving a simple grilled piece of meat and steamed vegetables. Everything was so oily and saucy. The chefs were clearly not concerned about my waistline.
Searching for the “Food High”
Everyone does it – it’s the search for a new “food high”. That’s that moment you’ve tasted something new or more amazing than ever before. The problem is, when you aren’t dieting, that food high can be harder to reach. But, when you eat clean (simple, healthy whole foods), you taste more of the actual food you are eating and rely less on all the sauces and fillers to entertain your tastebuds. As a result, even a little goes a long way. However, if you are eating rich foods all the time, you almost need even richer foods to wow you. It’s almost like a drug. The more you are used to, the more you need to taste to get your food high. However, if you eat clean, it takes very little to excite you.
Although I admit, I had enough chips and salsa to kill someone, the other thing I missed was smaller portions. Since I ate more than I would at home, my belly was constantly fuller. I am not just talking about my stomach, I’m talking about my entire gut. The more you eat, the more you digest. This alone makes you feel fat, even if you don’t gain one pound of fat. I tried to graze all day, but when it came to Mexico, I couldn’t stop eating the guacamole! ha!
After a day exploring Cozumel and tasting every pico, salsa & guac they had on the island, we ended at Three Amigos Restaurant, where we finished the night eating even MORE chips – and posing in this fun Three Amigos prop (left). 🙂 Left to right: Dawn Borders, Christopher Borders & the last happy face is ME!
Lastly, sometimes it’s just best to say no. I don’t know why we feel the need to try everything. It’s almost like we are scared of missing out. I believe it is healthy to have limitations even when eating out or on vacation. Despite how much food I DID eat, I still had rules and still tried to improve my choices. For instance, I had 1/2 a burger with no bun, I tasted some fries but didn’t finish them. I ordered some spinach stuffed mushrooms but didn’t eat them all. I tasted desserts but only ate what I loved and ditched the rest. Most mornings I skipped over pancakes and greasy breakfast items for egg white omelets, ham and fruit. I still had PLENTY of goodies, and STILL overate, but my “going crazy” still had limits.
So, here I am, back at home sharing my experience with you. Although I am no longer on vacation, part of my vacation came home with me – and it’s time to shed my vacation fat and jump back into my healthier routine.
See: “6 Tips to Recover from Fatcation“!
Do you take a vacation from your diet when you go on vacation? Or do you still try to be good?
I first discovered this originally as a “chicken dip” nearly 20 years ago. It was served with wheat thin crackers at a gathering at one of my old friend’s house. I immediately fell in love with this healthy snack and used to make it all the time – until I ate it so much I got sick of it. ha! (isn’t that what we do? We wear something out that we love!)
Although I try to stay away from crackers, this “chicken dip” is great on top of salad greens or eaten alone. It’s also perfect for eating healthy on the go since you don’t have to heat it up. It has a TON of flavor and is super healthy!
Chicken Peppercorn Salad
3 Chicken Breast, cooked chopped and shredded
1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Small Diced Tomatoes
25 Finely Chopped Green Olives
1/2 Cups Green Onion
1 TBS Fresh Minced Garlic (I buy it in a jar for easy cooking)
2 TBS Whole Black Peppercorn (amount is your preference)
Salt to taste
FOR SNACKING: Makes approximately 8 1/2-cup servings. 74 calories per serving, 10gms of protein. Eat with celery sticks, low-cal crackers or alone.
FOR MEALS: Makes 4 1-cup Servings. 148 calories and 20gms of protein. Serve cold over greens with a freshly squeezed lemon or greek style vinaigrette (lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper).
Please forgive me Diane Kawar if I butchered the original recipe. I never wrote it down, so I’m just going by memory here! ha! ….but it’s still a Pfiester Pfav!
If you are like me, you are always looking for a new healthy high-protein treat. So, after my shout out on twitter, I got some twitterific recipes which I’ll be sharing periodically right here!
Meet Natalie Christman
Natalie is a fitness instructor, hair stylist, licensed massage therapist, music, dance, art, wife, sister, family and motivator.
Natalie’s Protein Balls Recipe:
3tblsp- natural peanut butter
1/2c- Chocolate Protein
Mix ingredients. If too sticky add a little more protein powder until dry and clumpy. Roll into ping pong sized balls and place on wax paper. Freeze until firm.
I am SO trying these!!
When I consider all the diets on the market, I can’t help but wonder how Adam and Eve ate. I mean, there was no paparazzi to capture them eating at the trendy “Garden of Eden Café” nor were there tabloids exploiting Eve’s hot body and her latest “In the Garden Workout”. Diet and exercise as we know it didn’t even exist.
Deep fryers weren’t even invented and the closest thing to fast food was picking an apple off a tree. High calorie foods simply were not as easy to come by and exercise was a just way of life.
No one had to tell Adam and Eve to workout, they got plenty of exercise with their standard daily duties. I bet we’d burn a lot more calories and eat a lot less if we had to live like they did.
With that in mind, I really doubt obesity was much of an issue. Eve couldn’t have just gone to Publix to pick up a few groceries. Collecting food took time and energy. Since there was no refrigeration, it was essential the food was fresh for each meal so the chores were never-ending. Read the rest of this entry