Baked Chicken Parmesan

 

This recipe I’m sharing with you today is an awesome healthier alternative when you are craving a comforting dish of chicken parmesan.  I mean who doesn’t love that dish?  It’s cheesy, it’s got breaded chicken all place on a bed of pasta and drizzled with pasta sauce.  Bon appetite!

However, what’s not to love is the calories and fat this dish can pack anywhere from 700-1300 calories depending where you go and up to 52 grams of fat!  Yikes!  But have no fear, you can still enjoy a comfort version of chicken parmesan within your home without having to worry about it sabotaging your diet plans.

Sounds great right?  But what’s the tradeoff?  Using spaghetti squash and a reduced fat mozzarella you can still make the dish you love but significantly reduce calories and fat associated with it.  It’s a win win situation!

It all starts with a nice sized spaghetti squash.  look for one that has a deep yellow color and feels heavy for its size.

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Cut and remove the seeds from your spaghetti squash and place on a roasting pan in oven at 375 for 30-40 minutes until spaghetti squash can be separated with a fork.  Pro tip: pierce spaghetti squash a few times and microwave 3-5 minutes to make it easier to cut through squash. 

In the meantime, take thin chicken breasts and flour, dip in egg wash, and roll in breadcrumbs. Put in oiled trying pan and cook until browned and chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees. Pro tip: use chicken that’s already been breaded. I like Tyson panko breaded chicken tenders.

Pull out spaghetti squash when done and shred strands with fork. Preheat broiler. Dump spaghetti squash strands in oven safe dish. Take your favorite pasta sauce and pour some over spaghetti squash. Take the chicken once cooked and lay slices over top of squash. Add more pasta sauce and top with 1oz shredded mozzarella cheese.

Pop dish in broiler for 5 minutes until cheese melts. Let cool and enjoy!  Too bad I got so excited I mixed it all up before taking this picture…  oops!

 

 

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The Magic Equation for Success

I often get questions from people on what are the most important things they can do to see change whether that is weight loss, toning up or addressing health issues.  The equation for success is a simple 3 step process:  Set a goal, be realistic about what you can/cannot do and whatever your plan is be consistent.  That’s it!  The magic formula that stands between you and crushing it.

 

Fitness success formula

So why then is it so hard?  Why do people often fail?  Did you know that approximately 70% of people who start an exercise program quit?! Talk about the odds stacked against you. But the question still remains why did your plan fail?  Starting is step #1 and a great accomplishment but without the proper amount of forethought before beginning your plan motivation quickly slides into a slippery downhill slope.

Now the story can go two ways…. there are those of you who are like “yeah that’s totally me, I just can’t stick with a plan no matter how hard I try”.  On the flip side, there are others who say “I did have a plan and a goal but I saw no results so I just quit”.  Do you think Simone Biles got to the olympics by throwing the towel in?  Hell no, she tried it again and again and again until she perfected her craft.

So then what sets these two groups apart?  Why did one plan fall through and the other plan play out like an airplane stuck on a runway? Lets take a look into what happened in both scenarios:

Scenario #1: “I just can’t stick with a plan no matter how hard I try”

For the majority of you, chances are you fall into a version of the above (based on the previous stat at the beginning of the article). It’s ok the great thing is that it is NEVER too late to start again.  In the words of Janis Joplin, “Tryyyy just a little bit harder”.  So how can you try a little harder?  Let’s be frank, you need to set a goal.  That’s usually the biggest missing piece it’s lack of clarity from what you want and are expecting to achieve.  If you don’t know what you want, no one else will either. So my advice to you is come up with a solid plan… think it through.  What do you want?  What are your expectations?  Are they too high?  By all means it is good to challenge yourself but if you set some super high expectation of yourself that’s almost just as bad as not setting one at all.  Start small…. crush it…. set a new goal again and again and again.

So what are some types of goals you can try out if you need some ideas?

  1. Upcoming event  – for some of you maybe you have a vacation or wedding or event coming up in a few weeks, months etc that you want to look your damn best for.  What’s great about this goal is there is a clear date and a clear timeline to follow.  You know exactly how much time you have and are committing to.  The trick though is once you nail your goal don’t stop and say “ok I’m good i’m going to go back to being lazy now”.  NO! Set another goal…..  see below for some more ideas.
  2. Health related – Maybe you went to the doctor recently and uncovered that you are overweight or have high cholesterol, or worse are pre-diabetic or maybe you just want to be able to have enough energy to keep up with your kids. Whatever it is don’t just sit there wishing you could do something different just do it!  Use that goal as your driver to get healthy and benchmark your change.  By 6 months from now I want to be 20 lbs down or by my annual health exam next year I want to lower my cholesterol.
  3. Vanity goal – Maybe honestly you just want to look good.  You want to wear those size 4 or 6 pants you buried in your closet for the last 10 years or you want to see definition in your abs or firm up your butt. That’s ok too.  In this case find and clip pictures of what you aspire to be, how you want to look and use those pictures along the way as motivation toward your goal.  Just keep in mind realistic expectations… unless you are willing to supplement time, nutrition and hardcore years of training/clean eating most people will never look like the airbrushed models in a magazine (sorry!).  But that’s ok, be your best version of you.

The great thing is that once you start a plan that you thought out and succeed, that success will continue to motivate you to smash your goals again and again!  In the words of Sagi Kalev in Beachbody’s program Master Hammer & Chisel, “Are you a hammer or are you a nail?”.  Be the hammer….

Crush it!

Scenario #2: “I did have a plan but saw no results so I quit”

It’s ok, I’m not going to yell and say you didn’t try hard enough, I don’t know your situation.  But I do have a question for you.  What didn’t work?  Did you set a realistic goal?  Did you focus on exercise AND diet?  After all it takes two to tango.  You can kill it day in and out at the gym but if your diet is filled with crap choices your going to be stuck in the same spot like a hamster running on a wheel. To really succeed you need to be realistic too… maybe you were too extreme with exercise and diet and burned out before seeing any changes?  Think back on why you quit and then try again a different way or with a more defined goal in mind.  See how that works.

Look, no matter which scenario resonates with your current situation it is never too late to figure out what works but you have to be willing to try and no one can motivate you more than you can yourself.  Check out some of the other articles on this site to help inspire your new workout plan and diet and apply the 80/20 rule to all that you do.

Lastly, in this super long post, I do want to take a moment to congratulate those of you reading this that have figured out what works for you.  I know there are at least a few of you out there killing it and seeing really great results.  You, my friends are what can help the rest.  Share your success and what works for you.  Remember, we are all in this together…. we only have one life to live so let’s make the most of it.

By Kim Hale, founder of HoneyCrunched Fitness

 

Cardio Day Do’s and Don’ts

stretching before cardio

C-A-R-D-I-O, what’s that spell?  Cardio! (Insert dramatic eye roll here). What’s your definition of cardio?  If you’d ask a group of people I suspect you would find a different answer from all of them.  Maybe you like to run or take long walks, maybe your more of a get in go hard and get out in 15-20 minutes in which case HIIT is for you,  whatever your type cardio plays an essential role in heart and cardiovascular health.  Cardio also releases those endorphins that make us feel good while managing to help elevate our metabolism.  It’s an essential building block of a healthy lifestyle.

Everyone I have spoken to about cardio gives you a wide range of emotions about how they feel waking up knowing it’s cardio day.  There is the one type of person that absolutely loves cardio and focuses most if not all their weekly workouts around spinning, running, rowing , jumping etc.  The second type doesn’t mind getting a little sweaty and out of breath few times a week, and our last type hates it almost as bad as a kid hate getting a shot at the doctor’s office.

I fall somewhere between the last two categories. I used to be a 100% focused cardio-a-holic! I loved it and my lungs and endurance sure did too… but let’s be frank cardio is downright exhausting! I was not doing it because it was my favorite thing to be doing at 5am in the morning I was doing it because I feared that the only way to maintain my weight/not gain weight was doing a large amount of cardio – all the time.  WRONG.  So it wasn’t until I forced myself to try a new Beachbody program, Master Hammer and Chisel that I learned there is a much better way!  I could lift weights and increase my strength and stability in every day things like pushing doors and picking up my daughter while changing how my body looked.  You definitely work up a sweat and increase your heart rate lifting weights and yes I did have 1-2 cardio days a week I just didn’t live or die by cardio like my former self.  Here’s a great article if you are on the fence about cardio benefits versus weights from Precision Nutrition:.

But what works well for me and my body goals may not be the same things you like or the goals you have.  However amongst it all there are a few guiding rules when it comes to cardio and reaping benefits from it versus going overboard:

DO make sure to incorporate cardio weekly. 

What’s your goal? Weight loss?  Incorporate 3-4 cardio sessions a week.  Gain muscle/maintain you can get away with 2 no more than 3 days of cardio a week.

But, DON’T overdo the cardio.

I repeat… do not. Rather if you have tank in the gas ditch your go to cardio routine for some pilates, yoga or strength training substitute.  Overdoing cardio leads to low levels of energy, feeling burned out, and is not going to change your physique the way you want.  Seriously…  think about your goals and answer this question:  Would you rather be a smaller version of your current self or would you rather be more defined “toned” and stronger?  Excess cardio with no weight training focus gives you a “skinny fat” physique versus adding in strength training (with or without weights).

DO mix up the intensity of cardio you do weekly.

Not every cardio session has to be max intensity or too low intensity.  Mix is up add a quick HIIT session,a low intensity walk, or a steadystate run into the week.  Not only will your mind thank you but it will keep your body guessing which promotes change and prevents plateaus.  Need some inspiration?  Check out Popsugar Fitness’ cardio workouts for inspiration.

DON’T starve yourself before doing cardio.  

Yes in some various states when all the stars are aligned if the intensity of your cardio is low enough you may just possible burn more fat doing cardio on an empty stomach…  but personally, I’d rather fuel myself with something small as opposed to nothing and be starving, sweating and running on E through the whole thing.

DO make sure you are mentally prepared for cardio

The worst thing you can do is force yourself to go for a run or through some HIIT routine when you are running on 3 hrs of sleep, or you went out and drank too much the night before, or you are feeling ill.  Not only will you suffer through the whole workout but this also can lead to bad form and potential injuries which would set you back even further from your goals.  Instead on these days DO workout but opt for something more manageable like yoga or pilates or even a nice walk outside.

How often do you like to do cardio a week?  Have any extra tips to share with us on what works for you?  Share in the comments below.

 

Why do Squats?

Squats, we love them we hate them, they love us they hate us…. the vicious circle goes on. But bottom line, squats are amazing for your health and creating a nice backside.  I mean come on, adding squats into your daily routine is proven to reduce the appearance of cellulite, gets all the blood flowing in your legs (hello desk job), while sculpting your butt and thighs at the same time.  And how could I leave out they are massive calorie burners ….  legs are your powerhouse with muscle density incorporating leg movement into your routine increases not only your muscular definition but also boosts your metabolism how awesome is that? If you ask me they are an essential piece to your workout and should not be left out!

squat

However, the types of squats you do, frequency, and if you are actually doing them right can make or break a lot of things…

Squat right.

So a squat seems pretty basic right?  But the question then becomes not if you can/can’t do a squat it’s are you doing them correctly?  Yeaahhh there is a huge difference.  Squats are awesome for your body but doing them wrong could really mess up your knees and alignment. I have seen time and time again at the gym people doing squats wrong. That is soooo bad for you.  You might be wondering, am I doing them right?  I don’t know!  Here’s a few tips to ensure your posture is where it needs to be.

  • Check your knees….  when in a squat can you see your toes if you look down?  If your knees are passing your toes you are not doing it correctly.  Stop now… injury ahead!  Realign yourself so you are sitting back far enough that you can see your toes when you look down.

Wrong

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Right (no squatting in flip flops is not a best practice!)

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  • Butt back – When you squat stick your butt out (no one’s judging 😉 ) You’ll ensure your form is correct and the knee over the toe issue will never become an issue.
  • How low can you go?  Just go low enough that you are still in control.  Going too low can be a problem too…  your knees should not start buckling in.  Stop and try it again this time not so low.

Squat frequently.

There are a myriad of squats and combing them ensure you are hitting all parts of your legs and glutes.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • Basic squat
  • Sumo Squat
  • One leg squat (again watch your knees here)

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Aim for 10 of each squat variation above and repeat 3 times.  Try and incorporate 2-3 times a week.  Want to kick up your heart rate a bit?  Try adding a jump to the regular and sumo squat variations.

Incorporate Weights

I have said this time and again, do NOT fear lifting weights.  Fear what happens as you age if you don’t exercise or strength train (hello brittle bones).  That said, add some weight to your squats to fire your body up even more.  I recommend starting with 10lb weights in each hand and progressing from there.  Just to give you an idea (and proof) your legs will not get bulky I currently vary between sets anywhere from 15lb-30lb.

So get out there and squat it like it’s hot!