7 Tips For Cutting Soda From Your Diet

Let me just begin by saying that I’m not a nutritionist, nor do I claim to be; I’m just speaking from experience! I know that sometimes there’s nothing like a can of sweet, bubbly soda to wash down your slice of pizza or a plate of pasta; it can just be so satisfying sometimes! But I also know that there’s a ton of sugar in various cans of soda — sugars that aren’t good for you. The amount of sugar in most cans of soda is actually more than two times the recommended daily amount (yikes!)

When I was in high school, I decided to stop drinking soda and drink only water, because I knew that my family had a history of Diabetes, so I was old enough to really start making myself more wary of some of the things that went into my mouth. If you’re trying to stop a soda habit in its tracks for whatever reason — health, fitness, you just don’t like it anymore, you’re drinking too much, etc. — then here are some tips to make ending the habit so much easier!

1. Cut the amount you drink in half. 

If you usually have a full can, drink only half of the can, and from there you can continue to cut down on the amount you drink. This way, you can still have the taste of soda, but just a little less than you usually have. It also helps to cut down on the number of times per week you have soda. If you typically have soda five times a week, try cutting down to three times a week. It’s okay to take things slow; you don’t need to quit cold turkey!

2. Substitute soda with a less sweet drink. 

Iced tea is a great substitute for soda. Personally, I like the Turkey Hill brand iced teas (my favorite is the Mango Green Tea!) This one in particular actually contains zero grams of sugar, and it’s just naturally sweet because they put honey in the tea. Juices are also great things to drink instead of soda, as long as the sweetness you taste is natural. This way, when you drink something else you can still have something that’s a little more pizzazz-y than water.

3. Always keep a bottle of water near you. 

Keeping water near you will make you more likely to reach for that the next time you get thirsty. Plus, I don’t know about you but sometimes drinking soda makes my mouth feel even more dry, and not always as refreshed as I would like to feel. You can buy a reusable water bottle and always keep it, full, in your room so you don’t even have to travel to the kitchen unless it’s for a refill. This is going to sound extremely terrible, but at one point I used to make it a daily game to see how many water bottles I can drink completely in a day. I know, it’s super bad for the environment! But it did help me drink more water and less soda!

4. Stop buying bulk packs of soda. 

You know, the packs of 36 sodas that you can get from places like Costco? Those bulk packs aren’t going to help you cut soda from your diet. When you have so much, you might want to drink regularly and for longer, but if you buy smaller packs of 6 or 12 then, well, when you’re done, you’re done and you can either bother yourself to go back to the store again, or you can do without and drink something else.

5. Keep soda out of the house all together. 

This would definitely be hard if you live with other people because you aren’t just buying groceries for yourself (trust me, I’m in this boat as I’m still a college student). But if you can convince your family to stop purchasing soda, this would be a great step toward giving soda the cold shoulder. Out of sight, out of mind! If you can’t get your family to stop bringing soda into the house, then meeting your goal will require some self control.

6. Try developing a taste for different drinks. 

For me, developing a taste for tea really helped me stay away from soda. I started off by drinking green tea (completely unsweetened and without milk). This is somewhat of an acquired taste, but soon I started adding natural lemon juice and ice to my green tea, and I even went on to try out other teas from the grocery store. If you know inside and out that you just simply aren’t a tea person, try something else. I also highly recommend coconut water!

7. Remind yourself why you want to stop drinking soda in the first place! 

Sometimes thinking about why we set certain goals can really help kickstart a journey or keep us on track. Just thinking about what the end result could be can give you a big surge of focus and desire to keep doing what you’re doing. So the next time you feel yourself slipping off the horse (is that even an idiom????) remind yourself why you decided that it’s time to kick your soda habit.

I hope you enjoyed reading the tips I have for drinking less soda and eventually removing it from your diet. Doing these things really helped me out, and if there’s anyone else out there who wants to trade in the pepsi can, then I hope you have found these tips useful!

Btw, if you’re looking for more tips for adjusting your lifestyle, be sure to check out my post on simple food swaps you can make.

What are your tips for drinking less soda? 

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4 Great Places On 5th Ave. To Grab Lunch

Manhattan is full of fun things to do and fun places to go to, but after all that walking you’ll definitely want to grab a quick bite of lunch! Hunting for great eats can be pretty daunting — there are just so many to choose from! For the last few weeks, I’ve been discovering some great eateries along 5th Avenue, and I’ve decided to share my finds with you. So if you’ll be taking a trip to the area, definitely check these places out!

1. Potbelly – 366 5th Ave. 

5th ave lunch Potbelly

This is a great stop for a quick lunch pickup. I personally purchased the chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat bread and I definitely thought that it was one of the better chicken salad sandwiches I’ve ever had. Some of the toppings you can add, like peppers and onions, and condiments are free (in case you’re wondering, avocado slices as toppings cost $1 extra). I love mustard on literally everything, so I went for that. I paid around $7 for my sandwich and I will admit that they are a tad bit small for the price, so if you go here take advantage of the free toppings and condiments! All the sandwiches are made fresh and you can take them to go, or stay in the cozy, slightly dimly lit shop and eat.

2. Pret A Manger – 389 5th Ave. 

5th ave lunch Pret A Manger

Pret (as I’ve learned people call it) is a natural and organic foods eatery. You can find soups, salads, sandwiches, and even baked goods. Coffee and other beverages are also options here. I ordered a blueberry muffin (the best one I’ve ever eaten!) and a carrot cake cookie. I totally appreciated their creativity with that. Their baked goods aren’t too sweet like the ones from other shops, and the entire store is really simple and clean, and there’s lots of nice seating. When I first stepped in, I was reminded of a section of a grocery store because of the (cooler? fridge thing?) near the front that held salad bowls and fruit. This is a great place if you want to appeal to that voice in your head that keeps telling you to at least try to eat healthy.

3. Panera Bread – 452 5th Ave. (Sorry, no pic for this one. It looked so good I ate it before snapping a shot!) 

This one’s a really popular chain and can be found in so many different places, but this was actually my FIRST TIME eating at Panera Bread! I know, I’m totally lame, but I really enjoyed the Frontega Chicken panini. I hate red onions (and onions in general) with a passion, but the onions in this panini complimented everything so well, and everything tasted so fresh. I also ordered another panini for someone else (steak and white cheddar panini) and when given the choice of a side of bread, chips, or apple slices with each sandwich, I chose the chips. You also have the option to choose whether you want half a sandwich or the whole thing. Panera Bread also does salads, pasta, and baked goods like danishes. The choices make a quick and yummy lunch and dessert that you can take back to the office with you.

4. W Cafe – 390 5th Ave. 

5th ave lunch W Cafe

5th ave lunch W Cafe

I think this one is my 5th Ave. favorite on this list! W Cafe serves hot and cold ready-made sandwiches and sides. I actually went back here twice because the Chipotle Chicken Panini I got was SO good! When you order to go, you get a side of really yummy chips. The first time, I got plain popcorn and these spicy potato chips. The second time, I got plain potato chips, and I actually LOVED them (I’m not a fan of plain anything but these were the best chips ever!) You can also get dessert here such as macarons, cheesecake cups, and slices of cake. There’s also a huge assortment of individually wrapped chocolate bars and cookies. I paid approximately $12 for two sandwiches with the side chips, in case you were wondering.

Final Thoughts…

If I had to pick one place that was my ultimate favorite, it’d probably be W Cafe (if the fact that I went there twice didn’t already give it away). There is literally a sea of sandwiches there that I haven’t tried yet and that I’m excited to. The ingredients and flavors in the sandwiches aren’t boring — not stuff that I think I can boast about making right at home. I also love the variety of the desserts there. Granted you will not find as many desserts here as you would in a bakery, but if I really wanted something sweet I’d still actually have a hard time choosing what to get here! Congrats, W Cafe, you’re the ultimate winner in my mind!

Next time you’re in the city looking for a bite to eat, I hope you’ll consider these locations. And if you’re totally new at traversing the city and have no idea how to start, be sure to check out my post on city travel basics + Battery Park. That’s right, there’s lots of fun to be had in Battery Park! I totally believe that you can plan a great trip to the city, but if you still aren’t convinced you can also take a look at my post on how to ride the subway like a pro.

What are your favorite Manhattan eateries? 

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Tasty Tuesday: M&M’s Taste Test

This weekend I went to M&M’s World on Broadway and had a rather colorful time. Aside from the shelves and shelves of M&M-themed mugs, shirts, sweatshirts, keychains, backpacks, pillows and sleepwear (because who doesn’t love pajamas) There is a station that houses stacks of assorted M&M’s where you can grab your own bag and twist tie and fill it up to your heart’s content. There are so many flavors and colors to choose from, including classic peanuts, pretzels and the other well-known flavors out there. But as an adventurous soul with even more adventurous tastebuds, I decided to try out some of the stranger flavors they M&M’s offers. Brace yourself; you’re about to delve into a world of M&M’s like you’ve never seen them before!

“Spicy Chili”

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This is the first flavor I gravitated toward because it’s pretty crazy — chili and chocolate, what?! I’ve had Spicy Aztec Chocolate flavored frozen yogurt before, but I really wanted to see how M&M’s would incorporate a spicy chili flavor into their candies. Keep in mind that I have a rather high tolerance for spiciness! So upon first popping an M&M into my mouth and chewing, I didn’t get hit straight away with any type of spiciness. I was about ready to say, “what a joke,” when I finally got that taste of chili. You do feel it on your tastebuds and in your mouth, but it isn’t super dramatic. Spicy flavors are pretty tricky because it all depends on the individual’s tolerance for spiciness, but let me tell you, you definitely feel the sprinkle of chili flavor on your tastebuds!

This flavor is inherently colored shades of hot red (emphasis on the hot) which is pretty. Confession: I think the warning reds add to the anticipation because you feel like you’re selling your tastebuds to the devil and you’ll need a gallon of milk next to you! This flavor is good, but it wasn’t my favorite of my 2-pound bag of M&M’s.

“Easter Sundae” 

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This one looked pretty because it was an assortment of pretty, spring, Easter-themed M&M’s. I was curious because of the ‘sundae’ part. Essentially, it’s supposed to incorporate the yummy flavors of an ice cream sundae, all into one itty, bitty piece of deliciousness. In my opinion, these were pretty sweet but didn’t highlight any individual traditional ice cream sundae flavor — no vanilla ice cream taste; no chocolate syrup or fudge taste; no banana on the side. Instead, it all tasted like just a mass of sweetness with no pin-pointed flavors. Because of this, this flavor fell very flat for me. I tried eating more of it because I thought, “maybe I was being closed-minded.” It was still no use; in fact, I disliked the flavor more with every additional M&M that entered my mouth! This flavor really just wasn’t for me.

“Honey Nut” 

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You know those cereals where the cereal flakes are lightly coated with honey? Or better yet, those crunchy Nature Valley granola bars that have a hint of honey in them? Yeah, this flavor of M&M’s is the embodiment of those. This one actually wasn’t my all-time favorite, but it wasn’t my least favorite either. My dad actually really loved this flavor because it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet, so it’s a good pick for those who want to enjoy a candy that doesn’t make them feel like their molars now have cavities in them.

The colors of the M&M’s were really pretty — black, yellow, orange — and they reminded me of a beehive. Well, I guess M&M’s wouldn’t be doing their job if their “Honey Nut” M&M’s didn’t make you think of bees and beehives! So good job with that, M&M’s!

“Cherry”

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I hate cherries. They definitely aren’t my favorite fruit, however, I usually find cherry flavored sweets…sweet! I honestly wasn’t all that excited for these because I’m just never excited for cherry anything in the first place. I made sure to not get too much of this flavor because, like I said, I wasn’t at all excited for it. Damn, I wish I had gotten more of it now! The cherry flavor isn’t extremely strong — you don’t get immediately swept off your feet by the flavor — but it’s still prominent. It literally tastes like you’re biting into one of those chocolates that have cherries in the middle! “Cherry” was probably my favorite flavor of the six that I tested. It made me respect cherries just a little bit more!

“Crispy” 

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I love Kit Kat bars because of the crunchy wafer covered in chocolate. I love Crunch bars because of the crispy rice pieces covered in chocolate. “Crispy” M&M’s are basically like those except in teeny, tiny M&M form. I know these aren’t exactly a flavor, but they were intriguing (and really fun to eat!) I was gobbling up spoonfuls of these because The crunch sound they made was even more satisfying and made the M&M feel like it had a lot to offer. These are comparatively smaller than most M&M’s (awww) but this is a collection of M&M’s that I would want to repurchase in bulk!

“Dark Chocolate Mint” 

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I normally like mint flavored things — especially with chocolate — so I knew right away that I’d like these. The hit of mint is definitely strong — you can smell it a mile away. Okay, maybe not exactly one mile, maybe from your seat at the kitchen table. These are exactly what anyone would imagine the classic mint-chocolate combo would taste like; nothing more, nothing less. I also really liked that they came in an assortment of pretty shades of green (because that’s really important when eating M&M’s).

Final Thoughts

“Cherry” was the best flavor of the six! My second favorite was “Crispy,” followed by “Dark Chocolate Mint.” Then I obsessed over “Spicy Chili,” “Honey Nut,” and last, “Easter Sundae.” How’d you like this taste test for Tasty Tuesday? Let me know in the comments!

What’s your favorite flavor of M&M’s? 

Tasty Tuesday: How To Skip Dessert Without Actually Skipping Dessert

Ah, dessert, my favorite meal of the day, and you know what they say about skipping meals! On a college campus where so many sweets and treats exist amidst so many students who choose to make the push toward a healthier dietary lifestyle, it can be a bit difficult to walk past a row of chocolate brownies and not even think about making that purchase. FYI, I have actually done a double take when walking by sweet treats in the dining halls! I usually walk away either bitterly content that I powered through the urge to buy that chocolate bar, or regrettably happy that I now have a chocolate chip cookie to look forward to. It’s a bittersweet feeling either way.

But no matter what reason you have for wanting to start walking the path to a healthier lifestyle, despite what you’ve been told, you don’t need to cut yourself out from your happy world of tiny satisfactions. That’s right, you can still have your dessert! So if you think that getting healthy means skipping out on your favorite meal of the day…think again! Here are some foods that are just as satisfying as your go-to chocolate cupcake.

Mango Black Tea Lemonade from Starbucks.

Well, the frappuccinos there are basically dessert! C’mon, a venti cup full of chocolatey goodness, topped with whipped cream and the topped again with chocolate syrup isn’t dessert? Yeah, okay. Believe me, I have tried to cut Starbucks out of my ‘new and improved’ lifestyle and it just doesn’t work for me. Sorry, not sorry. But instead of having a frappuccino everyday, I have taken to ordering their teas and other shaken drinks. I have gone from really cool Cool Lime Refreshers to the super pretty Strawberry Refresher, to Peach Green Tea and now, my new favorite, Mango Black Tea Lemonade.  Even with the lemonade added, these drinks aren’t nearly as sugary as frappuccinos are. These drinks are refreshing and definitely enough to keep your tastebuds content.

Coconut flavored yogurt.

I just love coconut flavored anything, but if you aren’t a fan, then try yogurt in a flavor that you are a fan of. I love eating coconut flavored yogurt as a “substitute” for dessert because I it makes me feel like I’m dipping my spoon into a coconut cream pie! Depending on the brand you choose, there isn’t a lot of added sugar — I mean if there was then you might as well have just bought that coconut cream pie — so this ensures that you aren’t pushing yourself too far off the healthy eating wagon. I love having dessert a little early (say 10a.m.) by enjoying a cup of coconut flavored yogurt.

Fiber One brownies.

These brownies are great for dessert because they come in pre-portioned packets, so you don’t have to cut anything yourself. And yes, I know that trick where you cut huge brownie slices so that one slice is basically the size of two brownies. Brownie crimes aside, these brownies come in reasonably sized portions and contain under 10g of sugar each. Plus, they’re brownies. I know they aren’t the same as your world famous chocolate chunk fudge brownies, but on the bright side, at least you won’t have to do the dishes after these!

‘Original’ frozen yogurt from Red Mango.

You gotta love Red Mango’s awesome flavors of frozen yogurt. From Nutella to Birthday Cake, to Spicy Aztec Chocolate, you’re happy so long as your sweet tooth is happy. But the Original flavor can actually make your sweet tooth happier than you think (probably not your dentist though). I like getting a small sized cup of Original flavored frozen yogurt because it’s sweet and just a bit tart (great combo). This is a great substitute for ice cream, of course. I, admittedly, like adding toppings, so I usually add granola bits. Feel free to sprinkle on almonds, strawberry slices, cereal bits, or anything else you think would pair interestingly with this flavor.

Bananas!

You can never go wrong with bananas! Since I dorm in college and I don’t want to pay 95 cents for every piece of fruit I buy from the dining halls, here’s what I do: When I go grocery shopping every two weeks, I pick a bunch of bananas that I think are very green and unripened. This is so that I can have them in my room longer without them spoiling. Once they’re ripe I have a banana a day. I love ripening them to the point where there are quite a few brown speckles on the peel. I find that they’re really sweet at this point. And the best part is, it’s all natural sugar! I usually peel a banana when I’m really craving a piece of chocolate or some other super sweet thing I know I shouldn’t have.

Frozen fruit bars.

Outshine is a great brand that produces these frozen fruit bars. They’re really good, and the company claims to use real fruit. See, fruit can be dessert! Frozen fruit bars are a great alternative to ice cream bars. Outshine has so many flavors to choose from: creamy coconut; grape; lemon; lime; mango — you name it! The only thing just as fun as consuming the product will be picking your next flavor!

So the next time you really, really, really want to indulge in a nice, big slice of decadent chocolate cake or a king sized chocolate bar, spoil yourself with one of these yummy substitutes! How’d you like this #tastytuesday post?

How do you skip dessert, but not really? 

5 Things To Consider When Shopping For Granola Bars

*Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or medical doctor of any kind. I am not offering any professional dieting advice of any kind. These are solely my thoughts and insight into how I go about making my own, personal dietary choices. You are free to adopt these ideas into your own life, however, do not take my word as medical fact.

What a wonderful world we live in to have portable bars of oats, grains, fruit and nutrition — ones that can conveniently fit in a backpack, brief case, or purse for sustenance on the go. Granola bars have been one of my favorite breakfast and snack options since middle school — hell, probably since elementary school. I always loved those chocolate covered ones from Chewy, because who doesn’t love chocolate covered anything, really? The older I get, the more health aware I become. So, yeah, I’ve already realized that chocolate covered anything doesn’t exactly pack the nutritional punch we wish it did. Of course, there are some things much worse than nutritional grains doused in sweet, milk chocolate.

Honestly, navigating the isles for your perfect match is pretty difficult, because there are so many aspects to consider. I created a guide that I go by when purchasing granola bars, and I’ve decided to share this with you! So here’s what I usually consider when selecting granola bars:

  1. How much sugar does it contain? This is the first, and biggest, question I ask myself when granola bar-hunting. A lot of people think that calories are their biggest enemy, however, remember the good old saying, “quality over quantity”? It applies here, too. It’s not how many calories you consume, but rather the types of calories you consume. So I basically threw that whole “100 calorie foods” idea out the window. Instead, I look at the sugar content in what I buy. I personally feel that sugar has a more direct role in weight gain and becoming unhealthy, and unfortunately, many granola bars (and protein bars) contain, or contain close to, our recommended daily serving of sugar — a whopping 25 grams. There are granola bars out there that contain fewer than 10 grams of sugar, which I would choose over those s’mores granola bars with 20 grams (and we all know how much I love the chocolate, marshmallow, graham cracker combo). You can check out my list of 10 Granola Bars Under 10 grams Of Sugar on Influentser. 
  2. Will I poop? This is a hint toward fiber. I know that sometimes it can be hard to find granola bars that are low in sugar and high in fiber because often times, that’s just the way the trade off works. Granola bars high in fiber may also be quite high in sugar. The same might hold true for some granola bars that are low in sugar. Of course, you aren’t going to get your entire recommended daily serving of fiber in one, puny granola bar, but that one puny granola bar can definitely help you out a little bit more if you pay more attention to the amount of fiber it contains. 
  3. Fruit filling vs. fruit chunks. I try to stay away from anything with fruit filling inside because it is typically way too sweet. Even those with sweet a tooth (like myself) have a limit and this is my personal limit. Plus, there are definitely some amount of preservatives in there to keep that fruit filling fresh, or at least edible, for so long. That doesn’t mean there are no preservatives in fruit chunks, but there is probably considerably less. Fruit chunks also tend to be less sweet. 
  4. Does it contain something I might be allergic to? No matter how many health benefits a granola bar promises you, if you’re allergic to an ingredient in there, DO NOT consume it. I had this run-in with Chia Health Warrior bars. See, I’m allergic to almonds and I when I happened upon the Health Warrior bars in Target (mango flavored!) I didn’t even check to see if it contained any ingredients I was allergic to. You can probably guess how that ended…And then recently, a friend of mine recommended Lara Bars, so I went to pick them up, but this time I checked the ingredients list. Almonds. Of course.  So beware of nut allergies, soy allergies and other allergies when shopping for granola bars! This is actually more important than excess sugar!
  5. Is it sugar free? If the answer is yes then you probably shouldn’t make that purchase…This is something I learned a few months ago from a source I don’t even remember: If a food says it’s sugar free then chances are it actually contains some artificial sweeteners that are actually worse for you than regular sugar is. Weird, right? So sugar-free foods basically defeat their own purpose. I haven’t really seen any granola bars that are marked as sugar free, but I will definitely be on the lookout for them! 

I hope you were able to take away something from my guide to granola bar purchasing, and I hope you liked this Tasty Tuesday blog post and will consider these points I made.

What’s your favorite brand of granola bars? 

5 Simple (And Healthier) Food Swaps You Need To Make Right Now

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a major health maniac, but I am conscious of what I put in my body. In recent years, anyone looking to change up their diet has stumbled across articles around the idea that foods we thought were as healthy as they come actually aren’t. Yeah, well, who has the time and money to dump their entire pantry in favor of these “new” foods? Certainly not a college student who has never had a paying job!

If you’re like me and don’t want to re-vamp your entire diet, here are some simple food swaps I have made over the last few months that actually have made a difference in the quality of my life and diet.

  1. Have spinach instead of lettuce in salads. It’s not much of a secret that dark, leafy greens are better for you than their lighter colored, but still pretty and nutritious cousins. One time, I went to see my college nutritionist and she suggested romaine lettuce over iceberg lettuce. This is because iceberg is full of water and therefore not as nutrient-rich as romaine lettuce. This being said, imagine how nutrient-rich spinach is! Spinach doesn’t have any sort of weird taste or flavor, so you probably wouldn’t even notice it. Sure, it’s not as crisp as lettuce, but that’s OK! I even have green smoothies that contain pineapple, mint, water and spinach! 
  2. Instead of frappuccinos from Starbucks, have the refreshers. I love a double chocolate chip frappe as much as the next guy or gal, but I probably don’t have to tell you how much sugar is in those (but for the record, most frappuccinos have around 54g of sugar in them, a.k.a. more than twice the daily allowance). I haven’t had a frappuccino for a few months now. Instead, I buy strawberry refreshers or the peach green tea lemonade, which each contain under 15g of sugar. They’re both very refreshing and extremely satisfying. They’re great post-workout treats and you don’t even have to feel guilty for having them if you’re on a diet! I also love how the strawberry refreshers have pieces of strawberry floating around! #aesthetic. I wrote an entire blog post on how to be healthy at Starbucks, so be sure to check that out if you just can’t get enough of the coffee superstar!  
  3. Trade chocolate bars for bananas and grapes. OK, I’m not shy about admitting that I had a chocolate problem some time ago. OK, like four weeks ago. Anyway, stay away from the chocolate — it’s all unnecessary sugar that can contribute to sugar highs that end in you crashing, and a sick feeling in the bottom of your tummy. Yikes! If you’ve got the munchies and just need to chew on something, try bananas and grapes. They have been my rescue foods as of late and they provide essential and nutritious sugars for your body. Fruit are a healthy take on mindless snacking, so you don’t wake up feeling guilty as hell in the morning after a snackful Grey’s Anatomy binge. 
  4. Insert whole grains anywhere you can. Instead of a regular sandwich wrap, ask for whole wheat. Replace an everything bagel or even a plain bagel with a whole wheat bagel (I promise they taste really good, too!) Whole grains are full of fiber, which makes you poop! Well, you already knew that, but I still wanted to say it for the sake of not giving a shit (pun may or may not be intended) because it’s my blog! Anyway, as we all know, pooping is one of the easiest ways our body gets rid of toxins — toxins that certainly won’t contribute to a better lifestyle! Whole grains are full of fiber, and likewise, there are some snack foods and cereals now that contain a healthy dose of fiber. Beware though: sometimes companies make an unfortunate trade off. They pack all this good fiber into a food, but then there are crazy amounts of sugar, too! If you will get your fiber from sources like cereal and granola bars, be wary of this! 
  5. Go for grilled chicken instead of breaded. Breaded chicken comes with some unnecessary baggage, like extra skin and fat. Grilled chicken tastes great in wraps, sandwiches and salads! Sure, that fried chicken is so crispy and juicy, but unfortunately frequent eating of it won’t positively impact anything — except fried chicken cravings! If you’re a college student and are finding it particularly difficult to make healthy swaps like this one, you can check out my Tips For Healthy Living that I wrote for Her Campus! 

Of course, enjoying the not-so-good-for-you foods sparingly is completely fine. What kind of less-than-amateur nutrition expert would I be if I didn’t tell you that, anyway? Will I still have chocolate once in a while? Absolutely — I had a chocolate brownie from Starbucks just yesterday while typing the first half of this post! But, of course, once you make these changes and stick to them, they become second nature. I kid you not, last week I went to buy my usual salad (spinach, turkey pieces, cheddar cheese, croutons, caesar dressing) from the campus dining hall and they didn’t have spinach, but I really wanted a salad so I got lettuce instead and, let me tell you, the lettuce just tasted gross to me. I wasn’t really satisfied with my salad, but that’s what you get for swapping the two! Hope you enjoyed this Tasty Tuesday post!

What swaps do you make for a healthier lifestyle? 

Tasty Tuesday: Nutella Pancakes

So for Galentine’s Day, my roommate and I decided to make some brunch. We were thinking scrambled eggs and Nutella pancakes (because everything is better with Nutella). I’ll let you in on a little secret about myself: I don’t like pancakes. Syrup is even worse, in my opinion. Yeah, yeah, yeah; how anyone could hate what was basically childhood on a Saturday morning is blasphemous, right? My friends have been giving me the whole lecture for the last, like, decade.

So what propelled me to make pancakes if I don’t even like them? Like I said, Nutella is a powerful substance. So, this was super simple to do – even in a college dorm! I say this because, if you’ve ever tried baking or cooking any edible thing in a college dorm (with a communal kitchen in the basement), you know that it’s not always the easiest thing to do. If there are a ton of people congregated in the kitchen, finding space is difficult. Plus, where in your dorm room do you have the space to store all of your ingredients? You certainly can’t make a five-star meal out of a college dorm room, but pancakes of any kind are more than doable!

To make these lovely Nutella pancakes, all I needed were three ingredients: 

  • Pancake mix of your choosing
  • Nutella
  • Water

Yup, that was all! I forgot what brand of pancake mix we used, but I was surprised to hear that the beautiful buttermilk pancake mix only required water. I was honestly expecting eggs or milk or something, but, nope – just water. My roommate isn’t here right now for me to ask her what brand she picked up but I’ll ask her later and post an update.

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In any case, neither of us had made pancakes in a very long time – like not for decades. So the pancakes were a little…un-pancake-like at first, but no worries, we fixed them! I mixed all three ingredients together, but added extra water because it was difficult to spread the mix around the pan for a more circular shape.

The pancakes smelled and tasted great, and, because I hate syrup with a passion, I drizzled the tops of my pancakes with even more Nutella!

These pancakes are super easy to make and so impressive for breakfast! Like I said, they require so little that you don’t need a chef’s kitchen to make them. They don’t even need to be Nutella, they can be chocolate chip, blueberry, red velvet – the choices are endless!

What’s kind of pancakes do you like? 

Tasty Tuesday: My Homemade Red Velvet Cupcakes For Valentine’s Day

Fun fact: I used to have a baking blog. That’s right, about two years ago, I had an adorable little blog full of all the treats and goodies that I’ve baked over the years (from scratch!) You can take a look at that old blog of mine here if you’re curious. Anyway, I’ll be incorporating some of my baking skills into this blog at any chance I can get, so you’ll definitely see some cool treats floating around here once in a while! To do this, I’m starting a new beat called Tasty Tuesday, where I showcase food/dessert that I either made myself or think is really worth talking about!

This Tasty Tuesday, I’m all about my homemade red velvet cupcakes. Red velvet is definitely a classic that I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of – and if you know anything at all about me, you’d know that I hate sticking to classics and love changing it up and keeping things fresh (and just a little bit weird!) But these cupcakes are definitely a crowd-pleaser, plus Valentine’s Day is coming up and I wanted to do something remotely festive.

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People have always asked me how I make my red velvet cupcakes and cakes. In truth, there are many variations on the classic red velvet cake recipe – some versions even use beet juice! Here’s my very own recipe that works for me:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 stick of margarine (softened)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 3/4 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup of buttermilk
  • ALOT of red food coloring!

Instructions: 

Step 1: Dump your softened margarine into a bowl along with your sugar and begin creaming the two together. I creamed them by hand, which takes just a tad bit of arm strength (and dedication) but you can use an electric mixer if you don’t plan on living in the kitchen for the night. 

Step 2: Add your eggs and vanilla once you’ve creamed the butter and sugar. I also added a crap ton of red food coloring (3-4 tablespoons) at this point and I just hand mixed every part of this recipe because I clearly love wasting time. 

Step 3: In a separate bowl, combine your flour, baking powder and unsweetened cocoa powder. I used the Hershey’s brand cocoa powder in this recipe, but you can use whatever brand you love (I’m not the cocoa powder dictator!) 

Step 4: This my favorite part because we’re going to bring it all together! Sift your dry mixture into your wet mixture and start incorporating everything gently. You might notice that the batter becomes difficult to mix. We’re not making bread, so add your milk for a smoother and more liquid consistency. 

Step 5: Have a cupcake baking pan ready to go with cupcake liners and begin spooning your batter into the cups. Oh – you’re going to want to heat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit for this (this recipe works best if you use a heated oven). Bake the cupcakes for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with very little to no crumbs. 

That’s it! No beet juice, no red hair dye and no blood. These cupcakes are perfect for bae, great for your parents (my mom loved them) and awesome for your palentine! On a side note, yes, I just said ‘palentine’, you can read all about that in my latest article for Odyssey.

So I decorated my cupcakes with homemade cream cheese frosting and tinted some of that frosting pink. I just used an angled spatula to apply a generous amount of frosting over the tops of the cupcakes (nothing too fancy, this time) and with a small piping tip, I piped some words like ‘love’ and ‘pizza’ – which should always be together in the same sentence!

I hope you liked this week’s Tasty Tuesday! Do you like Tasty Tuesday? Comments? Suggestions? Let me know in the comments!

What are you having on #TastyTuesday? 

 

 

7 Ways To Make Healthier Choices At Starbucks

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Can’t seem to stay away from Starbucks but the nutritionist keeps kicking your butt about making healthier choices? Trust me, I know the feels. I became a Starbucks lover during my second semester of college. The food and beverages there make a pretty good dynamic duo. Believe me when I say that biting into a delicious snowman sugar cookie with one hand and slowly sipping an iced green tea latte with the other is a pretty satisfying event. But, sadly, like any other order from any other chain restaurant across the country, you’re ‘usual’ may not be the healthiest choice for you. You may gain a few pounds from the sugary drinks or you might not make the correct breakfast options. Since it’s way too hard to just quit cold turkey and not go to Starbucks, here are a few ways you can make your order a little healthier.

  1. Skip the whip. Yes, the double chocolate chip frappuccino from the poster looks divine with the whipped cream on top, but trust me when I say, you don’t actually need the whipped cream. In my mind, it isn’t so much because of extra calories as it is because of extra sugar. Much like pretty little snowflakes, all calories are not created the same. Therefore, I personally place a higher value on the quality of calories over the quantity. Whipped cream is added sugar right on top of your frappuccino. You aren’t going to give up on life and die without it.
  2. Opt for a small sized frappuccino. I used to guzzle venti frappuccinos like it was my job (but for the record, I would’ve been really good at it). Downgrading to a tall (a.k.a. small) frappuccino will not only save that impending hole in your wallet, but some crappy calories and sugar too. Besides, when you order a vent, you get 2/3 of the way done and you feel like puking anyway.
  3. Refreshers are a delicious item to try. I was introduced to the fabulous cool lime refresher, and, let me tell you, it was a deliciously healthier discovery. Refreshers actually contain about a quarter of the amount of sugar that frappuccinos contain. Shocking, isn’t it? They come in three flavors but my absolute favorite for all of eternity is the cool lime refresher. Plus, there are real slices of lime in your drink! If for some reason you end up thinking that these refreshers taste like watered down fruit, then getting tea is always another great substitution. I highly recommend the unsweetened peach green tea.
  4. Have a meal, not a snack, with your morning coffee. If you’re going to go to Starbucks for breakfast, actually have breakfast, not a snack! That sugar cookie with your iced vanilla latte is absolutely not a meal! You have three meals a day to intake nutrients; don’t waste them! Sure, a brownie is great as a small snack in between meals, but not as a replacement for the most important meal of the day! Go for the hot oatmeal with your coffee. If you’re like me and think that oatmeal is really demonic sludge, have a toasted bagel instead. You’ll have way more energy with a better breakfast choice, just no annoying sugar high.
  5. Ditch the muffins, cakes and super sweet pastries. They’re good to look at and eat sparingly, but a crumb cake a day does not keep the doctor away. Your dentist might be after you, however. Anyway, these items have more sugar than anyone really needs. Swap these with a bistro box that includes apple slices or grapes, crackers, cheese, etc.
  6. Choose hot breakfast over pre-packaged breakfast. I admit it – those turkey pesto paninis are so good! But the sodium isn’t! Pre-packaged foods that require refrigeration (or must be kept frozen) contain way too much sodium compared to their fresher counterparts. The panini will have to go, and so will that flatbread sandwich you’re always eyeing. The sausage, egg and cheese sandwich at Starbucks is one of the hot breakfast items that aren’t pre-packaged, and therefor contain less sodium. There are other hot menu items that you’ll find delicious that don’t require plastic wrap.
  7. Drop the bottled iced coffee (but not literally because it might break).  The bottled iced lattes are good, but they weigh in pretty heavy on the sugar scale. Asking for a small (unbolted) caramel iced coffee with sugar free syrup cuts down on the sugar. Remember that Starbucks is extremely versatile when it comes to customizing your drinks. You can tailor them to your specific needs.

I hope this maybe taught you something you didn’t already know (or reinforced your knowledge if you already knew these things). Will I stay away from Starbucks forever and ever? Nope! Will I follow my own advice to make healthier changes? Absolutely!

How do you make healthier choices at Starbucks? 

JS