Super Easy, Healthy Crockpot Gumbo

This healthy gumbo has been a staple crockpot meal in my home for a couple years now. It’s tasty, low calorie, high protein, and only takes about 10 minutes to put together in the crockpot. It’s so easy, it hardly even requires a recipe. Below is a step by step picture guide to put it together.

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First, assemble your ingredients! Sometimes I will dice up some bell pepper, but didn’t have any on hand yesterday. These are the basic ingredients.

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4 cups of frozen okra, check. Two cans of organic diced tomatoes, check.

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Frozen shrimp, check. I prefer the medium, deveined variety. This was a $5 bag from my grocery store of choice.

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I cut up chunks of the spicy lean turkey sausage and stir the mixture with my hands. If the chunks of turkey sausage are altogether, they will clump up and not create the desired effect. You must mix!

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Season lightly with some Tony Chachere’s or your desired Cajun seasoning. Since it’s better to make it less salty than too salty, I sprinked a conservative amount. The other ingredients generate a nice flavor on their own, but a little seasoning goes a long way.

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Pour enough chicken stock into the crockpot so that there is liquid about half way up the crockpot. I honestly never measure out how much I’m using, but I estimate it may be the range of 3 cups.

Set the crockpot to High for 4 hours OR Low for 8 hours. I use the former option for weekends, such as yesterday, and the latter option for working weekdays.

When the crockpot is done cooking, add as much rice as you like to the mixture. Normally I use one entire “boil in the bag.” I do not recommend adding the rice to the crockpot with the other ingredients, because it will become mush by the end of the cooking process.

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Enjoy! Approximate calories per serving: 25g protein, 300 calories.

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My Secret for Weight Maintenance: Daily Breakfast Smoothies

My only regret during my weight loss journey was that I didn’t discover the breakfast protein smoothie sooner. While I managed to lose plenty of weight without drinking a smoothie every morning, protein smoothies have been my secret weapon for keeping my weight consistent these past 3 years. When times get so busy that I’m not able to exercise for days or even weeks, I have managed to maintain a steady, lean 120 lbs – – largely due to these awesome smoothies!

I’d recommend at least one smoothie a day for breakfast to anyone looking to 1) lose weight, 2) maintain a certain weight/size, or 3) have a healthy, easy breakfast option on the go. People at work who see me drinking my smoothies often ask me how I decide what to put in them, how to make it, etc. The truth is: there is nothing to it! ANYONE can prep these over the weekend and have them ready to dump into a blender during the work week.

NOTE: These portions are for 2 smoothies each, since I drink these smoothies with my husband daily.

Step one: Protein + Fiber

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A big reason why these smoothies are so effective at weight loss/weight maintenance is that they are chock full of protein, which encourages muscle growth (supplemented with a weight training routine, of course) and prevents muscle loss. For those of you who are not big on Whey Protein, you can also use Plain, non-fat Greek Yogurt — though the smoothie will taste less sweet.

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The fiber and additional protein comes in the form of Flax seed (2 tablespoons) and Chia seed (1 tablespoon). Both are of filling fiber, which will keep your appetite at bay until you are ready for a mid-morning snack. Both are also full of Omega 3 fatty acids, which is amazing for fat burning– among many other health benefits!

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These have been the products I’ve used in my smoothies since this tradition began three years ago. All of these were purchased at Costco! The chia seed I purchased in bulk when it was on sale for $6 a bag, and the Flax seed runs at about $7. This particular brand of whey protein has the perfect protein/carbohydrate ratio and tastes great. One giant bag is about $35 at Costco, but will last us at least 2 months.

Step 2: Fruits + Veggies

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This is the basic combination of produce my husband enjoys. I will often alternate my fruits by the week. For example:

Week 1: frozen strawberries + spinach + banana

Week 2: blackberry/raspberry blend + spinach + banana

Week 3: mango + spinach + bananas

Some form of greens, whether it is spinach or spinach/kale, is a non-negotiable. I aim to get at least 3-4 servings of greens in each gallon-sized zip lock back, just in case I don’t get a ton of veggies in that day. The bananas are equally important, because without them, the texture and taste of the smoothie just isn’t the same. Plus, bananas add additional fiber and potassium. If a banana is browning, I may dice it up and include it in the gallon-sized zip lock bag. If bananas are perfectly yellow, I will typically add them into the smoothie the morning of.

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Step 3: Putting it all together

In the morning, these smoothies take me a grand total of 3 minutes to put together, because I’ve already put everything together over the weekend. Now it’s just a matter of dumping the protein + fiber bag and the fruits + veggies bag into my Blender Ninja, then adding either almond milk or coconut water (24-32oz, though I usually eyeball the right amount). I serve into two big cups and breakfast is served!

I drink my smoothie between 7-8am, and it’s so filling that I’m usually not hungry again until 11am or close to noon. I usually pack a protein car as a mid-morning snack just in case, but a lot of times the hunger just doesn’t kick in or I’ll forget.

Hope you’ll enjoy, if you haven’t already gotten into a daily smoothie routine of your own!

Approximate calories/protein/carbs per serving:

330 calories; 35g protein; 35g carbohydrates

 

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Current Status & 5 Key Tips for Sustainable Weight Loss

If you know me or have taken time to read through the few posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out that losing 40 lbs and keeping it off is one of my proudest accomplishments. People who find out about my transformation always ask, “How did you do it?” as though they expect me to tell them about a secret pill or trick. I explain that I achieved my initial goal of losing 20 lbs through healthy eating and exercise, but that fitness eventually became a passion of mine — a lifestyle change that I have stuck with to this day. I’m writing this blog so I can share some nuggets of wisdom that allowed me to not only lose the weight, but keep it off for several years and counting.

#1: Get out of the “diet” mindset. Weight loss is only sustainable if you stop approaching everything as temporary. Living off a “diet” of broccoli and chicken breast will only last a couple weeks before you are ready to return to your old eating habits. Begin with making small sacrifices you can actually commit to, such as limiting the amount of fast food you eat or giving up sweets or alcohol (which is a killer for your fitness, btw). Once you’re ready for more, draft up a menu that meets your caloric needs (see #4) while still being appetizing to you. Over time, your body will stop craving unhealthy foods.

#2: Accept the reality that weight loss is 80% diet. Sure, there are some people out there who are blessed to eat whatever they want and still lose weight if they exercise. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people… nor is a majority of the population. Stop justifying eating greasy, fatty, sugary foods, or drinking alcohol because “it’s Friday” or “because I deserve it.” It’s okay to have a cheat meal every now and then, but you will never train your body to crave healthy foods if you are constantly justifying reasons to eat unhealthily. Set a goal to have a cheat meal once a week and stick with it.

#3: The type of exercise you do is important. If you are already significantly overweight, cardio + healthy eating will go a LONG way. I lost the first 20 lbs simply by using an elliptical and/or treadmill for about 45 mins each day. Once I reached about 130 lbs, taking off additional fat became a lot harder without sacrificing muscle. Steady state cardio will only take you so far before HIIT (high intensity interval training) becomes necessary. If you are only moderately overweight or just looking to shed a couple pounds of fat, HIIT + weight training will be your best friend. I do not recommend weight training alone if you are significantly overweight, unless you just really enjoy it and are willing to wait longer to see results. In either case, I also recommend finding out your body fat % and writing it down for comparison each month. You can find your approximate body fat percentage by using calipers or by using a body fat monitor.

body fat chartFitness101.com

#4: Track your calories and meal prep! Piggybacking off my comments regarding 80% diet, tracking of calories is a necessary evil in order to create the calorie deficit needed for weight loss. I tracked calories using the free MyFitnessPal app for the first year of my fitness journey, and it truly paid off. If you are unsure how many calories you need to in order to lose weight, see this nifty calorie deficit calculator.

Prepping your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners ahead of time makes it easier to reach your target weight. It’s also less expensive than eating out, so what do you have to lose? Here is an example of what I eat in a day, while in fat-burning/muscle-building mode:

Breakfast: Protein strawberry + banana + spinach smoothie with almond milk – 300 calories, 30g protein

Mid-morning snack: Protein bar(s) – Approximately 200 calories, 10g to 20g protein

Lunch: Salad, sandwich, or burrito bowl – Approximately 500 calories, 20-25g protein

Post-workout: Protein smoothie – 300 calories, 30g protein

Dinner: Crockpot meal with some kind of protein + veggies + complex carbohydrates – 500 calories, 30g protein

Dessert, optional: Greek yogurt with cherries (if I worked out that day) – 150 calories, 20g protein

Approximately 2,000 calories; PROTEIN: 150g

Granted, this diet would be one that I follow if I am trying to gain muscle and lose fat simultaneously. If I was overweight and had a more significant amount of fat to lose, I’d scale the calories back to 1,500 but aim to consume as much protein as possible. Protein will keep you fuller longer, and prevent any unnecessary muscle loss.

#5. Patience is key. Fitness is a journey, not a destination. – Don’t expect to see results over the course of a day, or even a week. Successfully losing weight is not an easy or quick process, and you must be prepared to endure setbacks and keep pushing. Don’t weigh yourself everyday. Set realistic monthly goals, and reward yourself when you meet them. Never lose sight of the prize! You owe it to yourself to commit to a healthier lifestyle, not a deprivation mindset.

Even today, I am still on my fitness journey. I don’t plan to lose more weight, but I am constantly working to make myself better– whether that is cutting down on my body fat percentage or trying to gain more lean muscle mass. With that said, here are my current stats as of 1/22/17:

Weight: 119 lbs; Body Fat Percentage: 24%; BMI 19.9; Chest: 34 inches; Waist size: 25 inches; Hips: 38 inches

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Because I am a firm believer in goal setting, here are some long-term fitness goals for 2017 given my current fitness level (which is mediocre at best):

  1. Develop quadriceps and calves. The bottom half of my legs are a little too skinny.
  2. Continue to develop upper body strength
  3. 19% Body fat, which leads me to…
  4. Visible abdominal muscles! Not expecting a super ripped six pack or anything, but a nice abdominal outline is attainable with the right diet/exercise plan.

That just about covers all I have for now. For my next post, I will begin posting information for my current exercise routine and meal plan if anyone is interested in keeping up. 🙂 Until next time/hasta luego!

<3

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The Evolution of Eva

Hello and welcome to my blog! It has been more than five years since I left the blogosphere, but I am so happy that I’m back! Let me give you some background:

I blogged for several years as an adolescent, documenting just about everything that happened to me from the ages of 14 to 22– even working as a student blogger for the University of Texas during my college years. Blogging was very much a big part of my life. At the age of 20, I had the life-changing experience of studying abroad in China. When we returned from the trip, friends began tagging me in Facebook photos, and I couldn’t help but stare at them in disbelief of how overweight I looked.

Mind you, I had never been a “fat” girl. My parents might have nicknamed me “Chubby Dubby,” but I always just considered myself to have a little extra meat on my bones — never fat. This time was different:

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Many people who read this might be thinking, so what? I’m about the size of the “average” American woman, according to current national standards. That might be true, but for me, this was a big moment. The moment I realized that I didn’t like the way I looked and now was the time to do something about it. That’s when something started to click.

I immediately started adopting a more healthy diet– chicken, vegetables, brown rice, fruit– that kind of thing. I coupled that with about 30 minutes of light exercise a few times a week, and the pounds just started melting off. People kept asking how I was managing such rapid weight loss, as if they had no idea how weight loss worked. The formula is simple: just use more calories than what you put in. Create a calorie deficit. I lost the first 25 lbs in less than 3 months by sticking to this principle.

This formula worked… up to a point. This is when I hit a plateau and started increasing my work-out intensity. Unfortunately, I did not know how to increase work-out intensity the way I should have. During my first year teaching is when I reached an almost unhealthy obsession with exercise. I was running nearly 7-8 miles every single day and only taking in around 1,200 or so calories. Even though I was the slimmest I’d ever been, I was no more stronger at 110 lbs than I was at 160+ lbs.

smallevaShortly after this period, I met and got engaged to my now-husband, who encouraged me to live a more healthy, moderate lifestyle. He also helped me stay more consistent with weight training, which has allowed me to increase my muscle mass, so my body fan burn fat more efficiently and keep me relatively slim. I’ve learned that true fitness is not measured on a scale, but in visual appearance! I am still far from perfect, but that is the fun of being on this fitness journey!

currentevaEvery day I learn more than I knew the day before about what it means to be healthy and fit. The purpose of this blog is to allow myself — along with help others — maintain accountability, set and attain goals, etc. Thank you for taking this journey with me!

 

Love,

Eva

 

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