150 Calorie Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Bananas have a very limited shelf life in my opinion, I like to eat them when they are barely yellow and as soon as they have brown spots, I turn my nose up! But, ripe bananas make the perfect basis for baking. As bananas ripen, they become sweeter, meaning that you can often use less (or in this case), no added refined sugars! This muffin recipe would be a perfect breakfast alongside some Greek yoghurt and a good cup of coffee. And at 150 calories, you can’t really go wrong…

Macros per muffin (based on 12 servings): 156kcal; 5.6g protein, 23.3g carbs, 5.1g fat

Ingredients 

  • 250g (approximately two medium) overripe bananas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 170g all purpose/plain flour
  • 60g old fashioned oats
  • 85g crunchy almond butter (can substitute for peanut butter or for a smooth consistency nut butter)
  • 85g 0% fat Greek yoghurt
  • 5ml (1tsp) vanilla essence
  • 125ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 45g honey
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 350f and line a muffin pan with 12 muffin cases.
  2. Roughly chop up the banana and add to a large bowl.
  3. Measure out the remainder of the ingredients into the bowl.
  4. Using a handheld whisk (or Kitchenaid) whisk the ingredients together on a low speed. Ensure all the mixture is combined, but don’t over whisk as it will break down the ‘crunch’ of the oats.
  5. Spoon out the mixture into the 12 cases – you can fill to the top as the muffins don’t rise too much and have quite a dense texture.
  6. Bake in the center of the preheated oven for 18 – 22 minutes. Take out when the top is slightly golden and a knife will come out clean.
  7. Enjoy warm with Greek yoghurt and sugar free syrup for a higher protein breakfast or enjoy after a savory meal for a 150kcal sweet treat.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

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Fiery Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Hands up, I admit it, two years of living in the States and I am all about the pumpkin hype. Most pumpkin flavored things that crop up here are actually fairly sweet, but pumpkin on its own, is actually very savory. It has a great color and texture and this recipe brings out all the warm, cosy feelings that autumn should bring! I have eaten it with chicken and whole grain spaghetti, and I have also sautéed it with Miracle Noodle rice and egg whites. The sauce is quite strong in flavor so is probably too overpowering for fish, but it would also make a great basis for a soup too! Happy pumpkin season! 

Macros per portion (based on 4 servings): 76kcal; 3.1g protein, 14.1g carbs, 1.4g fat

Ingredients

  • 1 can pumpkin (approximately 425g)
  • 1 bag of spinach (approximately 250g)
  • 65g red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 cup (240ml) unsweetened original almond milk

Method

  1. In a large, non-stick pan, fry the onion over a medium heat until it softens.
  2. Add the spinach gradually (a large handful at a time), stirring until it wilts and there is room for more. Be careful to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  3. Add the pumpkin, almond milk, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and stir until combined.
  4. Turn up the heat until the sauce starts to bubble and add more almond milk (or water) if the sauce is too thick.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes (I find this allows the spices to really ‘knit together’ well).
  6. Serve over chicken, veggies and pasta for a hearty, autumnal meal.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Seaweed and Satay Shrimp Spring Roll Wraps

I came across spring roll wraps in an oriental supermarket whilst traveling and was instantly both fascinated and inspired. I had never used these wraps in my cooking before, and, after a lot of practice, I would offer one word of advice and one word of reassurance. The advice – don’t overfill, it will make rolling them almost impossible. The reassurance – these wraps are a lot more robust than they look. This recipe isn’t messy or difficult to prepare, but it is very wet and I recommend lining a good portion of your kitchen work tops with tea towels! These make a great appetizer or an aspect of an oriental themed spread.

Makes 16 rolls


Macros per two rolls: 192kcal; 19g protein, 22g carbs, 3g fat

Ingredients 

  • 120g cooked shrimp
  • 16 spring roll wrappers (I used Blue Dragon)
  • 1 pack roasted seaweed (I used a teriyaki flavor, but any flavor would work)
  • Vegetables of choice (I used broccoli, shredded carrots and shredded cabbage, but would also recommend bean sprouts, cauliflower rice and red peppers)
  • 12 tbsp powdered peanut butter
  • 25ml coconut aminos/soy sauce
  • 25 ml sriracha
  • Water 
  • 5 tea towels

Method

  1. In a small bowl, measure out the powdered peanut butter, coconut aminos (or soy sauce) and sriracha. Stir carefully, adding water in 25ml quantities until you have made a thick sauce (you don’t want a thick paste as it is difficult to spread and you don’t want a really runny sauce otherwise it will fall out of the wraps). Set aside.
  2. Run your tea towels under the cold tap and wring out so that the tea towels are wet throughout, but not dripping. Lay out across a clean work top. 
  3. Turn the cold tap down so that it is running in a light but steady stream. One by one, run each wrap under the cold water, until it turns translucent and pliable. Lay down flat on top of the wet tea towels. Repeat for each of the wraps in turn. You don’t need to worry about the wraps sticking as long as your tea towels are wet!
  4. Place 2-3 seaweed crackers in the center of each of the wraps. These will help guide your placement of additional ingredients to ensure you don’t over-stuff!
  5. Lay your vegetables of choice on top of the seaweed and place about five shrimp on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top each of vegetables and shrimp mixture with a spoonful of the satay sauce and spread across the shrimp with the underside of a teaspoon.
  7. Roll your wraps by folding down the top and folding up the bottom (this will hide the seams) and then fold over the left side of the wrap so that it covers the mixture in the middle. From here, roll your wrap. Repeat for the other wraps.
  8. These can be enjoyed immediately or refrigerated and eaten later. Refrigeration does cause the wraps to harden more, but it doesn’t make them any less delicious!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

The Value of Savasana

I first tried yoga a few years ago in Cardiff when the initial ‘hot yoga’ hype was widespread and there were some yoga studios sprouting up. (Yoga in the states is a lot more prevalent and there are infinitely more yoga studios and opportunities to try different styles than there are in the rainy Welsh capital). I tried hot yoga at a little studio nestled away in an industrial park called Seren Yoga (seren means ‘star’ in Welsh). I had bought a Groupon for a few classes and sampled several different styles. My favorite, by far, was a style of yoga called ‘Budokon yoga’. Budokon yoga originates in Miami and has a martial arts influence. It resonated with me for many reasons and the instructor was knowledgeable, friendly and supportive. 

Budokon yoga follows a ‘series’ and we worked on different aspects (a bit like chapters in a book) each week, until ‘us’ (us, meaning the class members) had sufficient basic skills to be able to put the movements together to complete a version of the primary series. I enjoyed this yoga style so much because it is dynamic; it is not the type of yoga where you hold each movement for ten breaths and it is not the type of yoga where you come away having not sweated a drop. Also, the martial arts influence means that each movement is done with your toes in a ‘Demi-point’ (a combination of pointing your feet but keeping your toes flexed). I am not an elegant individual and I have the most inflexible toes (I cannot point them, something which always baffled my childhood gymnastics teachers), so alleviating the pressure of never having to point my toes was a big relief for me! By the time I left Cardiff, weekly Budokon yoga classes were engrained in my routine and I was eager to keep this up in Tampa.

A combination of yoga being a last priority, financial concerns and lack of Budokon yoga availability in the vicinity to my house led to yoga really falling off my radar for more than a year. Last winter, however, after a day of feeling particularly sore from a workout, I researched local yoga studios. I found there were an abundance of studios and decided upon trying Yoga Lotus Pond, drawn in by the idyllic pictures and exotic sounding classes. This studio is off a main road, but is situated in the most picturesque grounds, conjuring up the feeling of being on a retreat. The Hatha yoga took place on the veranda and it was just beautiful. Although the yoga didn’t hold quite the same appeal as Budokon yoga, I still really enjoyed it and attended every Sunday for several weeks. I am not sure why I stopped going, but I have recently re-started for two reasons;

  1. Until the past two months where deloading and taking it easier in the gym for a week has become part of my protocol, I was very aware of how much I neglect mobility, flexibility and recovery. When I have finished my workout, the very last thing I want to do is spend further time stretching. I am typically very hungry, tired and wanting a shower and to get home. Yoga encompasses stretching, flexibility and mobility and I always come away with my muscles feeling stretched. Moreover, the movements are deliberate and intentional, which is far more beneficial than my half-hearted and random stretches I would sort of attempt at the end of a workout.
  2. I always come away from yoga feeling relaxed and invigorated. I have a stressful job (but I realize most people do too!) and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I recently had a blood test and my cortisol (stress) levels came back high. Whilst your body cannot determine one type of stress from another (I.e. My intense workouts may have contributed to this), it did make me aware that, regardless of the cause of the cortisol being elevated, it is something I need to consider. I have no desire to reduce the intensity or frequency of my workouts and I have no desire to leave the industry I work in, therefore I realize I need to put steps in place to both get better at reducing stress and managing stress. The reason I come away from yoga feeling more relaxed is not because I have completed an hour of stretching, but because I have been led through a practice where discipline is emphasized. Yoga, from my experience, is all about being aware that you are devoting that time for you. This allocation of time to spend on yourself, therefore, should be the sole focus of your practice. Every class, the attendees are taught how to focus on breathing, be conscious of every part of your being and be mindful and deliberate with every movement. For someone who finds it difficult to compartmentalize stress and leave it at work; for someone who puts a lot of pressure on themselves to be ‘perfect’; for someone who values organization, drive and a relentless work ethic and for someone who finds it difficult to relax, the value that yoga can bring to my life is immeasurable. If you have read a lot of my blog posts, you will know how much I value metacognition. I believe that every aspect of your life can be improved if you think about your thinking. Mindfulness and yoga are synonymous. My next step, make Savasana and my ability to completely relax synonymous too. Namaste.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

‘Nutella’ Protein Shake

Nutella will always be one of my vices. I have demolished jars of it in one sitting and back in my first ever ‘prep diet’ Nutella topped oatmeal formed the basis of my refeeds. Chocolate and hazelnuts are just a winning combination, which is why I was delighted to experiment making a ‘Nutella’ protein shake. This contains none of the sugar that real Nutella does but if you like chocolate and hazelnuts, you will like this. The thick, creamy mix of freshly roasted hazelnuts combined with raw cacao powder will have your kitchen smelling delicious and it is especially delicious when paired with a cup of freshly poured coffee.

Macros: 249kcal; 29g protein, 8g carbs, 9g fat

Ingredients 

  • 1 scoop chocolate whey (I used Dymatize double fudge brownie whey isolate)
  • 5g cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
  • 15g hazelnuts (I used raw hazelnuts and roasted them in the oven at 350f for 20 minutes, but this is up to you and your preferences/time restrictions. If you do have time, I do recommend freshly roasting them as it really adds to the flavor and your kitchen will smell incredible!)
  • 170ml unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • (Optional: 30ml calorie free chocolate/hazelnut syrup/few drops of chocolate Stevia)
  • Handful of ice

Method

  1. Add a handful of ice to your Nutribullet or blender.
  2. Measure out your almond milk and liquid sweetener (if using).
  3. Add in the dry ingredients.
  4. Pour water into your blender up until the ‘maximum’ line.
  5. Blend until smooth.

    -Benchpressingbaubles, x

    Carrot Cake Protein Smoothie

    If you don’t like carrot cake, then, well…. who doesn’t like carrot cake?! Definitely my favorite cake due to the moist sponge, abundance of spices and textures and not let’s not forget the cream cheese frosting! Although this recipe doesn’t replicate the frosting aspect of carrot cake, it does contain the flavours and is easy to whip up at any time of the day! I drink more smoothies on the weekend, but smoothies are the perfect grab and go breakfast and this will definitely satisfy any sweet tooth!

    Macros: 234kcal; 33g protein, 18g carbs, 3g fat

    Ingredients

    • 3/4 scoop vanilla whey (I used Dymatize vanilla whey isolate)
    • 1/2 scoop cinnamon/snickerdoodle whey (I used PeScience snickerdoodle whey blend)
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
    • 150ml unsweetened vanilla almond milk
    • 200ml carrot juice (I have tried this recipe with shredded carrots and it will result in you almost having to bite through your smoothie)
    • Handful of ice
    • (Optional: 15g raisins. This will make it sweeter and have a slightly thicker texture and will add approximately 45kcal and 12g carbs to your smoothie)

    Method

    1. Add a few cubes of ice to a Nutribullet/blender. (I always do this first to avoid splashing the other ingredients everywhere!)
    2. Measure out the almond milk and carrot juice into the blender.
    3. Add the dry ingredients.
    4. Top up to the line on your blender with water.
    5. Blend until smooth.

    -Benchpressingbaubles, x

    Being ‘Fitspo’ led to my disordered eating

    I was brought up on predominantly freshly cooked, homemade meals and freshly baked cakes and desserts. My Mum used to hand make and decorate mine and my siblings’ birthday cakes and we were often greeted in the morning with freshly baked muffins. In the evening, most of our meals were made from scratch, with only a small minority coming from ‘bang on a plate’ meals. 

    From a very young age, I was exposed to an extremely wide variety of foods. One of my Mum’s favorite memories to recap is grocery shopping with me (aged 2) and asking me what I wanted for lunch. I responsed by saying ‘smoked salmon or taramasalata’ (a Greek dip made from cod’s roe). Needless to say, passers by found it very amusing that I had such a sophisticated pallete! I was always allowed to eat until I didn’t want anymore and had some nasty nappy rash from consuming 7 satsumas in one go! My favorite packed lunch was a vegetable and wild rice salad and an Orange Club biscuit (not homemade, but those of you who grew up in the nineties in the U.K. can relate I’m sure!) Other than ensuring my food was as freshly prepared and as varied as possible, the only aspect of my diet my parents were strict about was sugar consumption (and not because of the carbohydrate content, but because it is not good for your teeth). Fruit juices were diluted and I didn’t have any candy until I was six or seven years old! In fact, my first packet of candy is one of my most vivid childhood memories! My parents were shopping for a car and bought myself and my siblings a packet of Fruit Pastilles each from a vending machine to keep us entertained! Neeedless to say, I treasured those sweets!

    So growing up, I had a very healthy diet and a healthy relationship with food. I was, however, concerned and aware about my weight from a very young age. My brother was hospitalized from food poisoning when I was about six. When I was visiting him, I weighed myself on a scale at the hospital and was dismayed that I was more than five stone. I didn’t know what it meant, nor did I have anything to compare it to, but I think seeing the arrow go past the ‘5’ mark bothered me. It didn’t affect my relationship with food, but I was always aware from then on that I had much thicker legs than most of my friends.

    During my teenage years, I learnt how to properly cook. I studied food technology (and loved it) and lived by myself from aged 15. I have always been very independent but became more self-sufficient when catering for myself. It was then that I began meal prepping in a very simple form, often cooking a pasta bake for my weekday meals or a chilli and freezing portions. At school, I became more aware of calories and naively opted for a wholemeal bread roll, apple and apple juice for my lunch as I thought it was ‘healthy’. I would then be ravenous come 3.45pm so would devour a chocolate bar (or two) on the bus journey home. 

    By the time I started university, I was a big time party girl. I often woke up at 2pm, drank a lot of alcohol multiple times per week and devoured chips (fries), cheese and mayonnaise at 3am. Aside from these habits, I often cooked with my housemates, who had also been brought up on freshly made meals. Our house favorite was fajitas, but we cooked a whole host of meals and had great fun doing so! I put on quite a bit of weight from my drinking and late night eating habits and was very conscious of the fact that both my housemates were a lot slimmer than me, even though I didn’t do anything about my weight at this point. In fact, it wasn’t until a drunken agreement to do a half marathon that I really pursued any exercise at all. Anyone who knows me knows how stubborn and determined I am, so, not wanting to break this commitment, I began running. I lost a few pounds and definitely became fitter, but I also really enjoyed it. I ended up doing three half marathons! Ever since my initial run, fitness has been a part of my life, but it is also since then that my relationship with food has been turbulent.

    Gyms where I lived in the U.K. were few and far between, so when posters started popping up advertising the opening of a new low cost gym, conveniently located in the center of the city, it became hard to ignore the advertising. My boyfriend at the time already went to a gym and was really excited about this new, low cost, no frills gym opening. I was in two minds about joining, but in the end, I gave him my credit card and instructed him to sign me up! I knew that I needed someone else to commit to joining on my behalf otherwise it would forever remain an open tab on my Internet browser (so guilty of that!) My introduction to the gym was a Friday night circuits class with a very friendly and enthusiastic trainer (who I later hired as my personal trainer for the whole rest of the time I lived in the U.K.). I really enjoyed the experience and started going to multiple classes each week. I initially lost some weight, but then I began to plateau. I had heard a lot about meal replacement shakes so decided to pursue that avenue to help.

    After a month of using two meal replacement shakes every day, I had lost about six pounds and was noticeably leaner. I really wanted abs (to be honest, that was all I really wanted) and was told the only way to get abs was to switch to the gluten free versions of the shakes. Not only did these taste disgusting, but they also didn’t give me abs. I gave up the shakes and rebounded. I found myself craving sugar (the meal replacement shakes, although high in protein were also high in sugar). My boyfriend had gotten a lot more interested in nutrition and exercise and read/researched a lot of information. I only understood snippets of what he told me and sort of ‘piggybacked’ on principles like carb cycling and cheat meals, without having the same level of knowledge as him. Frustrated at the lack of progress, I began following a meal plan. At this point, I was thought of as being ‘into fitness’. 

    I meal prepped every weekend, but without any sense of portions, not weighing any of my food unless I was baking a cake! I stuck to my diet plan and began utilizing ‘cheat meals’ at the weekend. These cheat meals were nothing crazy, normally a pizza and some chocolate, or something similar. I didn’t see any weight changes on the scale, but there was no doubt that I was getting stronger and I loved lifting weights. The relationship with my boyfriend ended and I moved into a house with two people I didn’t know.

    When I moved in, I was instantly associated with being really into the gym; my protein powders occupied the space on top of the fridge, I went to the gym multiple times per week and spent most of my time away from work in workout clothes. My cupboards and space in the fridge were always full and I meal prepped religiously every week. This was probably around the same time that protein infused nut butters really started taking off and I would go to my favorite supplement shop to stock up on these treats (and the occasional protein bar too). I didn’t really look at the nutritional information, I was just of the opinion that the label says it is high protein, so it is healthy to eat. I often demolished half a jar of nut butter in one go, thinking this was a healthy quick snack, not realizing I had probably consumed about 800kcal. I was guilty of ‘piggybacking’ on what I had heard other people were doing, and, instead of having the knowledge (or portion control) of these people, would think that eating an entire box of granola advertised as being high in protein was a nutritious, healthy option. Being single, I cooked on my own and was always referred to as being healthy. Any time I went to eat something like a cookie, someone would make a comment in shock, something like ‘you aren’t going to eat that are you?’ Or ‘Nia is eating chocolate, what is that about!’ These comments made me put whatever ‘naughty’ food it was back. It was at this point that I started eating biscuits and cookies in private, either in my car or my bedroom. 

    My job became more stressful and I worked all hours. The gym was a welcome relief, but on rest days I struggled. I used to take Thursday off the gym, and after one particularly stressful day, I went to the nearest Tesco to buy a chocolate bar for the journey home. I was so indecisive about which particular chocolate bar I fancied, that the intent of purchasing one chocolate bar turned into two chocolate bars, hummus and crisps. The following week, I repeated my grocery shop visit and this time my haul was a bit more. A few weeks later, this habit had turned bi-weekly and my haul had turned into a feast fit for a child’s birthday party. A typical shop would be; a tub of Ben and Jerrys, a jar of Nutella, 2 packs of freshly baked large cookies (10 in total), hummus, crisps and a couple of cakes. By the time I got home, the cookies would have been eaten and I would run up to my room to finish the feast. I wouldn’t stop until it had all been eaten and then would forcibly make myself sick. The following morning, I would weigh myself and end up being distraught, limiting myself to egg whites and Pepsi Max all day. This habit became chronic and I didn’t tell a soul. I worried what people would think, after all I had the identity of someone who was ‘into fitness’. I also refused to acknowledge it was a problem and pushed it to the back of my mind. During this time, I began dating someone from Florida.

    I moved to Florida and moved in with my parents. My boyfriend and I began preparing for a fitness photoshoot and I was put on a strict meal plan. Not wanting to fail, I stuck to it religiously so my binge eating subsided. My boyfriend was already lean and so adopted more of an intuitive eating approach. My meal plan and my adherence to it, became a sore subject in our relationship. He became frustrated at the lack of freedom and started making negative comments about my appearance. He insisted on eating extravagant meals out, where I was forbidden from choosing what to order myself. Due to the expense of the meals, I was always expected to pay him back sexually, and any resistance on my part resulted in blazing rows and comments that I made him feel worthless. By the time our photoshoot happened, the relationship was extremely toxic and it ended. Unfortunately, so did my adherence to any sort of meal plan. I was hurting emotionally from the break up, struggling to adjust to a new country and hating my job. I also didn’t realize how much emotional baggage I had from that last relationship. My binge eating started again, hoarding and hiding food in my room and eating it in the bathroom with my shower and fan on to mask the sound of wrappers. I was so miserable that the binge eating was the last of my worries. 

    After a couple of frank discussions with my Mum about my misery, I decided to make an effort to be happy and sought nutritional help from someone else. They gave me a workout and strict diet plan. The new workout plan motivated me and the diet plan initially excited me as the calories were a lot higher than my final dieting calories. The ‘clean’ approach got to me and the programmed Saturday cheat meal worried me. I started reading a lot for myself and longed to be utilizing an ‘IIFYM’ (if it fits your macros) approach but was worried about leaving my coach. I decided to calculate the calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats from the plan I was given and experiment. I gave myself two weeks, I told myself that if I put on weight then I would go back to ‘eating clean’. Two weeks went by and my weight was actually dropping. I didn’t have the urge to binge and my arbitrary cheat meals weren’t used. Several months went by and my calories were increased to a very healthy 2200. 

    During this time, I had become really interested in podcasts and started listening to New York Muscle Radio, among others. I loved the frank and honest approach and downloaded all episodes and binge listened over a week or two. When they announced they were looking for athletes, I applied. It is only since working with Pete and Anthony that my relationship with food has become as good as it is now. They evened my cycled calories, told me that all the supplements I was taking were unnecessary and took away all the rules. Fundamentally, they made everything much more simple. My previous coach had done a great job on getting my calories that high, but she really hadn’t helped my relationship with food. Over the past seven months, I have learnt an awful lot and have come a very long way. People still make comments that they are surprised I eat carbs or cookies, but now those comments don’t phase me. I am labeled as ‘into fitness’ more than ever and I am totally okay with that. I still eat Nutella, just it is weighed out instead of demolishing a jar in one sitting. For me, controlling the portions of what goes into my mouth has helped me become less obsessive about my weight and to be able to live each day without negative thoughts of food taking over. I am not perfect though. I avoid eating out where possible. Most of the time, people choose places where the food isn’t great, but also eating out and eating food prepared by someone else haunts me. It brings me back to a very dark place of my life and I don’t know that I am ready to address that yet. 

    I know the comments made from people about me eating biscuits or cookies were partially in humor and partially in surprise, but they really affected my attitude towards food. From there on, it was a slippery slope and I abused food in times of stress and desperation. The very notion of being labeled ‘fitspo’ was the very thing that made me the furthest from inspiring.

    -Benchpressingbaubles, x