Keeping Your Body Nice: Hold the Sugar, but keep the Spice!

Living the Lean Lifestyle. I guess I’m a masochist & enjoy the torture because when I first started dieting, even now when I’m preparing for competition, I kept everything plain & boring…or as I preferred to call it, simple! I mean the way I prepared my food was so clean and bland that I would literally be able to pick it up & eat it with my bare hands- no utensils required! Now that I’m in my off-season and won’t be competing until March 2010, I’ve decided I need to liven things up. With no boyfriend in sight, my Friday & Saturday night’s are spent experimenting with recipes that are salt-free, gluten-free, & sugar-free. On-season or off-season I like to keep my foods very clean, as in very little or NO sugar, salt, etc. Rather than deprive myself & increase my craving to the point of binging, what I’ve done is taken the things I love & found alternatives which are much healthier & fit into my LEAN lifestyle!

Simple changes can make all the difference. We have all developed habits, both good & bad, that are ingrained in our heads as “our way” of doing things. Sometimes all it takes is learning something new & being open to change for us to build better habits. I grew up with an Italian/Mexican chef, caterer, & restaurant owner for a father & let’s just say although delicious, his food was far from healthy. I learned at a very young age how to cook & what tasted good with no reference to cooking healthy. If you know me now, you know that I am <em>in love </em>with food…my nickname is lil’ piggy! HAHA! (If I’m going to be called a piggy at least having the “lil” in there doesn’t make it so bad! LOL!) Food had never been such an issue for me until I was deprived of it. Yes, I liked to eat even before my first competition & the dieting. One of the biggest dilemmas I had to face when getting serious about cleaning up my diet was taking out the condiments & snacks that seemed to add spice to everything I ate. Really, cleaning up your diet is all about forming a new habit. Right now maybe your habit is salting everything, soda’s n’ sweets, & ranch dressing. There are many alternatives and NEW healthier habits you can develop that would change your body in no time! Not, only are these alternatives diet-safe, competition-safe, & bikini-body-safe, but they are also “super foods”, natural thermogenics, & great ways to increase your metabolism!

THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAV’S- FABULOUS CRAVE CURBING FOODS!

SPLENDA~ I was never a “fake”….no pretend-sugar or sweeteners for me, no diet sodas, I always wanted the real thing. But having no choice when I needed to get serious about leaning out I had to learn to adapt & Splenda was the sugar alternative that I went for. In coffee, oatmeal, oatmeal pancakes….it’s perfect! I’ve refrained myself from taking handfuls of Splenda packets from Starbuck’s & decided to just go buy a pack from the grocery store. Although a bit costly I’d say it’s worth having around the house when you’re craving a bit of sweet. At the market I also noticed they carry a Splenda/Brown Sugar blend which is nice to use for recipes that call for brown sugar- plus, it’s half the calories & grams of regular brown sugar. There are many sugar alternatives but one thing that I’ve found really wonderful about Splenda is that you can cook with it and baked goods recipes still taste fabulous! Another sugar alternative I’m currently using is Stevia which is a natural alternative (no chemicals) & it’s great for competition time because you tend to not hold water weight from it.

Vanilla Coffee Creamer~ A friend of mine made us coffee one morning & spiked mine with an ingredient that blew my mind! I like it dark, I like it black…but after having tried a Sugar-Free French Vanilla coffee creamer I was hooked! It’s so delicious you’d never even know it was sugar free! AMAZING! There are many brands that make the French vanilla sugar free flavors along with Hazelnut & it’s worth it if you’re a coffee drinker and need a lil flavor!

Cinnamon~ I use cinnamon mainly at breakfast in my oatmeal but found that cinnamon in coffee is exquisite. It seems to take the bite out of the really bold coffee flavors. This flavorful spice is a thermogenic (a metabolism booster) which helps the body to control blood sugar & insulin levels. That’s a very good thing! Other spices that are great fat-burning tools are ginger, black pepper, garlic, & red chili pepper!

Red Chili Pepper~ As I said….a great fat-burner, metabolism booster, & a yummy flavor for any meal! Red chili pepper contains an ingredient called capsaicin which is what gives it that hot fiery taste! Mmmm….I sprinkle this all over my chicken before grilling and the flavor seems to just soak right in- absolutely delish and a great kick to plain chicken. I also sprinkle it on my egg whites & salads for a nice spice! Lately I’ve been a lil chili pepper crazy! LOL!

Mrs. Dash~ If I weren’t so into men, I’d marry her! LOL! If you haven’t heard, Mrs. Dash is a seasoning/herb blend SALT-FREE! Pretty flavorful too & can be sprinkled on just about anything from chicken, to fish, eggs, veggies, everywhere! Mrs. Dash now comes in many flavors rather than just the regular. I like the Garlic & Herb…..Garlic has been known to help remove toxins from the body since it contains allicin, it has an anti-bacterial effect! It also increases circulation & helps with proper heart function.

I can’t believe it’s not Butter & PAM~ Chances are you’re already using these to cook with. All you need is a lil spray so food doesn’t stick. The I can’t believe its not butter is great to squirt on yams!

Salsa~ Low in Calories, carbs, no-fat, low sugar….it’s a great condiment to use. I like to make my own salsa which is even better because you know exactly what’s in it! Mustard is also a great alternative to mayo and other condiments & topping sauces!

Pineapple Vinegar~ I discovered this “dressing” because I was getting so sick of oil & vinegar. This has a bit of sweetness and flavor but is still under 3 g of sugar. I also cook my veggies with this- it gives everything, rice included, a very unique and taste bite!

Smucker’s Sugar-Free Breakfast Syrup~ When I tasted this for the first time I HAD to go get some for myself! It tastes like real syrup and I’ve come up with tons of ways to use it. I cook with it when I make baked goods & I pour it on my oatmeal/egg white breakfast pancakes….delish! Be careful though because if you’re anything like me, you’ll straight drink the stuff right from the bottle! LOL! Did I mention I have a lil bit of a sweet tooth?!HAHA!

Brown Rice, Rice Cakes~ I listed these because I found MANY UNLIMITED uses for these fantastic performance carb treats! Gluten free, sugar free, salt free, low calories…what more can you ask for?! I buy mine plain, salt-free and I absolutely love the fact that they are made with brown rice! I crumble them up and mix them with low sodium all natural peanut butter, splenda, & whey powder. Then I flatten the ingredients out in a pan, refrigerate, and then cut them into bars….viola! A yummy, homemade, protein bar! Great for on the go and just to have when you’re out. I snack on these backstage with some PB….Mmmmmmm!

So there are a few of my fav’s & there are many other alternative foods and condiments available too! Remember, it’s the small changes that make a HUGE difference!

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