Monday, May 7, 2018

Clean Eating: Breakfast Edition

I thought I would start a series where I chat about my meals and what my typical day to day looks like when I'm in the zone and things are going well.  I got inspired to do this because I've seen a lot of crabbing about weight loss and calorie counting specifically.  I am honestly shocked at the amount of people who perceive calorie counting as something only miserable people with an eating disorder do.  While I understand that like anything in life, calorie counting can be abused, I've honestly found it very freeing and it's given me the best relationship I've ever had with food.  Counting calories is what allows me to fit in ALL of the types of things I love such as cheese, peanut butter, avocado, butter, etc but to keep the amounts reasonable.  I've picked up on a lot of patterns with my eating and have been able to make observations about eating certain things and how it impacts my energy/hunger levels that I don't know that I ever would have connected before.  I think people hear "calorie restriction" and start clutching their pearls, when really what we're (or at least I'm) saying is that we're restricting from eating 5,000+ calories a day!  I think back to when I used to bemoan that I simply "couldn't" lose weight, and if I mentally tally my day to day food back then, I know I was at minimum eating 4,000 to 5,000 a day without question, and doing barely any exercise.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, I just don't want people to be like I was in my 20's when I was willfully ignorant.

Anyway, sorry to get off on that little rant, I just kind of want to stick up for calorie counting since I read some stuff this week that made me PO'd!  I also want to show that you can eat really varied, vibrant meals while counting calories that certainly are not in the same realm of starving.  Oh and cheap!  My meals are typically pretty inexpensive, so I wanted to show you that yes, you can have healthy but affordable meals.

Right now in an order to really set good habits for myself and give myself the fuel I need to do my workouts, my focus has been on clean eating.  Just to recap, my view of clean eating is focusing on eating fresh, homemade food with a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits.  Doesn't have to be organic, doesn't have to be gluten/dairy free, doesn't have to be a previously unknown superfood grown by monks on a south facing mountain top in the Andes, it just has to be wholesome food that isn't heavily processed or packaged.  I've got some minor stuff in there like canned coconut milk and peanut butter that I suppose you could argue is packed/processed, but eh.  Again, I don't have some big stressful playbook that I go by here.  Lean proteins, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and oils.  Pretty standard stuff.  Oh and my biggest rule?  To make meals I ENJOY eating!  There's no reason that clean eating has to mean bland, gross meals that make you sad.

I am not a huge breakfast person really, but find that the breakfast I do eat ends up setting the tone for the day.  It's probably my "lightest" meal of the day calorie wise, I try to get at least 250 calories, but may go as high as 450.  It really just depends on what workout I know I have coming up that day and my hunger levels.  Through food tracking (and just personal taste), I've discovered that having a savory breakfast with lots of vegetables tends to set me up for the most success and feeling of satisfaction.  Given those perimeters, typically my breakfasts during the week switch between egg dishes or oatmeal/oat bran.  Both are cheap but can be easily dressed up by changing the vegetables/fruit I use in them, so it's hard to get bored.

One of my favorite things I've been eating lately are microwave scrambles.  I love eggs and eat them so much that I'm surprised I haven't turned into one, but don't want to deal with making eggs during the week.  Then Budget Bytes posted this microwave scramble tutorial and totally changed my life!    Since then I've been alternating scrambles with oatmeal during the week, which prevents me from getting burned out on oatmeal.  They are so EASY to throw together to bring to work, and I also love how versatile these scrambles can be since you're really just using what you like and have on hand.  My scrambles are a bit bigger than Beth's because I take this opportunity to fit in a ton of vegetables (it's not out of the norm for me to use a whole bell pepper and 2 big fistfuls of spinach), and I usually use 3 eggs.  I also don't use the butter she has in her recipe, just because I find that it doesn't need it.  I typically add in heavier fatty components such as avocado on my really heavy lifting days, since I find that it helps me stay full and I won't be famished by the time I get home and do my workout.  If I include cheese, I keep it to a couple of tablespoons.

3 egg scramble with salsa, avocado, peppers, mushroom and cheese (450 calories)
That huge scramble was on a lower body lifting and HIIT day, which is why I upped my calories!

2 egg scramble with mushrooms, potatoes, onions and spinach (316 calories)

I typically pair my scrambles with a piece of fruit on the side, and that's my breakfast for the morning.  Those scrambles leave me really full and satisfied until lunch and have been a game changer when it comes to upping my veggie consumption for the day!

My other ride or die breakfast is oatmeal, and I alternate between steel cut oats and regular rolled oats.  Oatmeal is another great breakfast option because it's cheap as hell, easily portable and you really can dress it up with all kinds of spices and toppings to keep the variety factor going.  I find that oatmeal is the most satisfying to me when it has a little bit of a fat component, so long as you don't overdo it.  Peanut butter is a pretty standard topping for me, although I keep it to no more than a tablespoon typically.  Flax seeds are another good fat choice, and the toasted ones from Trader Joe's are especially tasty.  My new thing I've been rocking lately though is to drizzle oatmeal with a bit of canned coconut milk, the kind that you really have to stir the crap out of to get the coconut cream to mix into the water.  Besides the fact that it tastes really nice, it really ups the luxury factor on an otherwise boring breakfast.

Steel cut oats with a banana, peanut butter, honey, flax seeds and cinnamon (384 calories)

Steel cut oats with berries, honey and a drizzle of canned coconut milk (294 calories)

You'll note in the captions that those bowls of oatmeal had honey (sometimes I use maple syrup too), but I keep that to a scant 1/2 teaspoon.  To be honest, it grosses me out to have overly sweet oatmeal, so if I use sweetener at all, that's about it.  That plus the fruit make it sweet enough, especially if I use banana.

I don't have pictures of this, but I also really love oat bran and frequently eat it for breakfast, especially on rest/low impact days when I don't need as many calories.  It's low calorie and fast to make, but it's also incredibly filling.  Again it's not the most exciting thing in the world, but I find the texture very comforting, especially when my stomach is feeling wacky.  It reminds me of Cream of Wheat, which I used to love but gives me insane heartburn for whatever reason.  I even had oat bran in a pinch as a snack the other night when I was feeling hungry, and it almost immediately silenced my stomach and made me feel so full!  I don't get super fancy with it like I do oatmeal, I typically just season it with a pinch of salt and have fruit on the side.

And as a Southern girl, I do love my grits too.  They are very low calorie and have the same comfort factor to me as oat bran.  I love to sprinkle them with a tiny bit of cheese, or scramble a couple of eggs to have on the side.  Again, it's a good basic option on rest/low impact days.

So I know I said in the beginning that my version of clean eating doesn't exclude dairy, but you'll observe from these pictures that I don't eat a ton of dairy in the morning.  I just find that not only does it seem to wreck havoc with my stomach, but I suspect dairy is pissing off my skin too since I've noticed it's less red since I reduced the amount I eat.  It also comes down to that satisfaction factor, and yogurt/cottage cheese don't seem to keep me full as long.  If dairy doesn't give you issues, then Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit also make very inexpensive and low calorie breakfasts that you can easily take on the go!

I hope you liked getting a peek behind the curtain so to speak at my breakfasts.  I'll also be doing a post on my lunches and dinners!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Latourell Falls Wildflower Hike Recap

This is the first time in a long time I've had a fitness type "event" to recap, so I'm really excited!  Sunday we did the wildflower hike at Latourell Falls in the Gorge, and this was also the first guided hike we signed up for through Friends of the Columbia Gorge, so I was definitely really eager to see what the experience would be like.  Spoiler alert, it was awesome!

Latourell Falls is located in the Columbia River Gorge one of the very first of many waterfalls you'll hit as you drive down I-84 and I am ashamed to say that I've lived here about 16 years and have never once been to it.  I guess if the wildfire did anything, it's forced people to check out areas of the Gorge that they may not have before, I know that's definitely been the case for me.  Latourell is on the Historic Highway that runs parallel to 84, which I hadn't driven since last summer before the fire.  It was good to drive it again, it's honestly a bit of an engineering marvel, but I was really sad at points at how many scorched trees are there.  It's just a hard thing to witness.  There were also quite a few rocks in the road, which was a bit nerve wracking since rock slides are a major concern now that many of the trees are gone.  (In fact, there was one near where we were on Monday!)  We ended up getting there pretty early because we were worried about the parking situation, which can get gnarly around some of the waterfalls.  It gave us a good opportunity to get in some warm up stretches, and also check out the overlook for the lower falls!

After that, both of the hike leaders arrived, as did the rest of the group we were with.  A state park ranger led our hike (since I didn't ask her permission to have her name/photo shared, she will be referred to as M), and she was so awesome!  I am kind of dorky like this because I get oddly anxious about silly things, but having a ranger be there suddenly calmed down any remaining nerves I had.  It just felt very official and like we were in great hands, and we were!  There was also a really great volunteer who I'll call S who was walking at the back of the pack.  They were really awesome about making sure everyone was being safe and that everyone was always accounted for.  I am terrible at guessing crowd numbers, but I think we had about 10 people on our hike besides us?  We ended up being the youngest people besides M and S, but that's fine with me because we're kind of old souls anyway.  Everyone was just kind of quiet and about business on the hike, which I appreciated.

The forecast had rain, but M joked that she was holding the rain back until the hike was over, and wouldn't you know, it didn't rain a single drop the whole hike!  I mean it's Oregon, I was fully prepared to get rained on, but having the hike be dry was such a blessing.  The sun even popped out at several different points, and it just honestly made the hike magical.

We started off towards the upper falls, and M had given us these cute wildflower "bingo" cards where we could win prizes if we identified flowers in a certain order.  The cards were mainly helpful for identification.  I'm pretty good at identifying typical garden type flowers, but I definitely am hopeless in the native plants department.

One of the first things M pointed out to us was wood sorrel, which is edible.  I've passed this plant a million times out in parks and never realized that you could eat it!  Eric didn't try any but I was brave and took a stab at it.  I actually really liked it, it was immensely sour and a lot like lemon, but I'm very much about sour foods.

Yummy Sorrel!
We reached the upper falls, which were just absolutely gorgeous.  We were blown away by how close you could get to them.  They were running pretty strong, but we've had a lot of rain and snowfall this year.  The mist that was coming up felt very refreshing!

We continued on uphill and got several breathtaking views of the Gorge.  I have to admit, I've been in an Portland funk lately, just basically wondering if this city is still a good fit for me since there have been some immense changes to the city since I've moved that leave me kind of cold.  But we reached a view point that made me fall in love with Oregon again, hard.

The far away side is Washington, I'm standing in Oregon, and the mighty Columbia River is in the middle!

I realized it's just the city I'm mad at, and I can leave it and come look at this beauty anytime I want.  Maybe we could even retire out this way someday.  Regardless, I'd be pretty silly to leave this.

And I of course need to point out the star of the show, the wildflowers!  Since the spring has been pretty dark and wet they weren't in full bloom yet, but there were definitely plenty of pretty, delicate little flowers to be found.  I only captured a few of them since I was trying to balance taking photos with putting my phone away and just experiencing the sights around me.

Top Left to Right:  Bleeding Heart and Salmonberry
Bottom Left to Right:  Corydalis, Larkspur, False Solomon's Seal (?)
We also encountered quite a bit of stinging nettle, which I thankfully have never been stung by because I hear it's quite painful.  I have eaten it a few times before and it's very delicious.  I might have to bring some clippers next time and harvest some!

The entire hike was a little over two miles, and while I wouldn't classify it as difficult on any level, there were definitely a few points that made me thankful that I'd started back into strength training and have really been pushing my limits on what I'm lifting for my lower body exercises.  There were just a few uphills where I really had to pay attention to my footing and having lower body and core strength definitely helped.  (I was not sore the day after either, score!)

The hike ended earlier than we anticipated and we were still pretty pumped, so we did a little extra loop down to the lower falls, which again we were surprised at how close you could get to them.

Please excuse my fat thumb that messed up an otherwise amazing shot.  :(

After that we went and had lunch at Thunder Island Brewing, which is a bit of a drive up 84 but totally worth it.  They have a patio right next to the Columbia River, and it's so relaxing to sit out there, have a beer and watch the river.  

We had packed very light lunches and snacks for the hike in anticipation of maybe splitting an appetizer at Thunder Island, but we ended up just splitting a half of a PB sandwich and clementine on the hike, just kind of on the go.  That was enough to tide us over, and since the hike got over early we were able to have a proper lunch at Thunder Island so score!  They have really great food!

Then we ended the afternoon with an absolute must, a twist cone at the East Wind Drive In.  Best soft serve ice cream ever!

This was seriously the most fantastic, positive experience, and it made me so pumped and less nervous for the hike I'm doing with them in July.  I just felt really safe, immediately comfortable and welcome the whole time.  It's funny though, I felt the same way I did when I first started running and didn't know anything, like I didn't know what the hell you were supposed to wear or what kind of shoes to get.  I was definitely eyeing M, S and all of the people on our hike to see the types of gear they had.  Working out at home means I can wear whatever, so I don't have a ton of compression wear or workout gear anymore.  I also workout barefoot because I just feel steadier when I lift that way, so even my running shoes are ancient.  I'm definitely going to have to start getting some proper pieces of clothing and shoes.  My zero drop New Balances were fine for a smaller 2 mile trail but are definitely not going to hack Cape Horn.

If you live here, I cannot encourage you enough to check out Friends of the Columbia Gorge's site not only for their guided hikes, but simply for the wealth of information they have on ALL the hikes on both the Oregon and Washington side of the Gorge.  They are really kind, knowledgeable, and their love for the Gorge is so evident.  If you plan on visiting Oregon and are interested in hiking, it's a great resource as well!  They are doing fantastic work along with the Trailkeepers of Oregon, so definitely give them some love and support.