vday-treats

4 Guilt-Free Sweet Treats You Can Whip Up In A Flash

Valentine’s Day has a way of sparking our sweet tooth and bringing out our inner Betty Crocker. These four tasty treats, made with the wholesome plnt line of baking products, are simple to whip up and pair perfectly with a glass of champagne.

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Molten Chocolate Mug Cake

Serves: 1

Molten Chocolate

Cake Batter

  • 3 TBSP buckwheat flour
  • 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 serving plnt chocolate protein powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 7-8 plnt liquid stevia drops

Prior to making the mugcake, prepare the molten chocolate filling. Mix the coconut oil, cocoa powder, and stevia drops. Freeze in a small bowl or ice cube tray for 2-3 hours, until solid.

To prepare the cake batter, combine the dry ingredients (buckwheat flour, cocoa powder, protein powder, and baking powder) in a small bowl or mug. Slowly whisk in the almond milk and stevia drops. Once thoroughly mixed and no lumps remain, place the frozen chocolate filling in the center of the cake batter. Ensure that the top of chocolate is fully covered by the batter. Microwave for 60 seconds. Enjoy!

Nutritional info for 1 serving: 300 calories; 18g fat, 25g carbs (9g fiber, 1g sugar), 15g protein, 0mg cholesterol, 175mg sodium, 370mg potassium.

Sugar Cookie Protein Bites

Makes: 12 Balls

In a medium bowl, combine the protein powder and almond meal. Then add the cashew butter, mashed banana, and almond milk; stir until well combined. It should be fairly difficult to mix together because you want the protein cookie batter to be thick rather than runny. If needed, add 1-2 TBSP more liquid to stir. Once everything is well mixed, stir in the liquid stevia and vanilla extract. Divide the batter and roll into 12 balls. Feel free to decorate with sprinkles. Enjoy!

Nutritional info for 1 ball: 100 calories; 7g fat, 5g carbs, 5g protein, 0mg cholesterol, 40mg sodium, 20mg potassium

Oreo Red Velvet Parfait

Serves: 2

In a small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the soy yogurt with the protein powder, coconut flour, beet powder, and stevia. A thick, red velvet cream will result. In two separate glasses, layer the crushed Oreos, red velvet cream, and the remaining portion of vanilla soy yogurt. Top each cup with chocolate chips. Enjoy!

Nutritional info for 1 serving: 235 calories; 9g fat, 30g carbs (3.5g fiber, 12g sugar), 10g protein, 0mg cholesterol, 120mg sodium, 10mg potassium.

Raspberries and Cream Fudge

Makes: 12 servings

Line a mini cupcake pan with 12 mini cupcake liners. Set to the side. In a medium bowl, mix together the cashew butter, melted coconut oil, and stevia drops. Add the maple syrup and freeze dried raspberries to the bowl and mix. Distribute the fudge mixture evenly amongst the cupcake liners. Place in the fridge for 1-2 hours, until the fudge firms up. Enjoy! Store any extras in the fridge.

Nutritional info for 1 serving: 120 calories; 11g fat, 6g carbs (1g fiber, 3g sugar), 1g protein, 0mg cholesterol, 35mg sodium, 10mg potassium.

ways-to-add-protein-to-your-salad

9 Ways To Pack More Protein Into Your Salad

We all love a giant, fresh salad—especially when it’s piled high with toppings. Often, however, our favorite throw-together lunch falls short on one incredibly important macronutrient: protein.

“Because people often think of salads as diet food, they may skimp on toppings, forgetting to include sources of carbohydrates and protein,” says Rachael Hartley, R.D., L.D., C.D.E. “A bowl of vegetables and dressing isn’t going to provide much energy or hold you over until your next meal.” Hence why you need protein and fiber-rich carbs (like beans, fruit, or quinoa), which take longer to digest and keep you satisfied.

To make sure your next salad is actually worthy of being called a meal, we asked nutritionists for their go-to add-ins.

Related: How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
beans

 

 

With around five grams of protein and 100 calories in a half-cup (depending on the variety), beans are an awesome plant-based protein to throw into a salad, says Lauren Pincus, M.S., R.D.N.

Karla Moreno-Bryce, M.D.A., R.D, loves adding raw chickpeas to her salads, along with fresh fennel, spinach, and homemade vinaigrette made of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, agave, and salt and pepper. “There are so many possibilities for increasing protein content on a salad – and it doesn’t have to be meat, poultry, or fish,” she says.

Not into raw chickpeas? Lindsay Livingston, R.D., recommends falafel as another way to add beans to your salad. Falafel often incorporates spices like cumin, garlic, and coriander, kicking up the spice and flavor in any salad.

whole-grains

Wait, are we talking about protein or carbs here? Well, the answer is both. Since many whole grains also contain some protein, they can be a great addition to your next bowl.

Try a half -cup of grains like farro, which packs 12 grams of protein and six grams of fiber, for a more filling meal. Livingston likes to add roasted veggies to her salad along with the farro, plus some nuts for crunch. She recommends mixing plain yogurt with salsa for a creamy dressing.

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“My salad philosophy is, ‘when in doubt, add an egg,’” says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. “Top salads with a fried egg or two and enjoy as an anytime breakfast-inspired dish.” (Two eggs contain about 12 grams of protein.)

Dress your eggy salad with this delish vinaigrette from Newgent: equal parts avocado, extra-virgin olive oil, and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Blend it up for a creamy dressing for your eggs and greens.

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Without a solid crunch in the mix, salads can taste a little… soggy. To keep your mouth excited about every bite, swap the croutons and bacon bits for nuts and seeds, says Newgent.

Try two tablespoons of higher-protein options like hemp seeds (six grams of protein) or pumpkin seeds (five grams).

Related: Stash a bag of Hemp Hearts at your desk and you’ll never be without a salad-topper.

Just make sure you’re not too heavy-handed when adding these tiny toppings. Nuts can be very high in fat and calories, says Pincus. To keep your salad’s calories in reasonable range, use nuts and seeds in combo with another protein source.

seafood

 

 

Salads are a great opportunity to incorporate seafood into your diet, especially the canned stuff, says Hartley.

She often tosses wild salmon or tuna with olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs for a delicious salad protein add-in. Hartley also likes to top her seafood salad with hemp seeds, which contain omega-3s in addition to extra protein.

Pincus recommends topping your salad with three ounces of grilled salmon (20 grams of protein) or grilled calamari (13 grams).

cheese

 

 

Yep, you read that right. “Cheese is my absolute favorite food, so I love including a crumble of a flavorful cheese, like blue cheese or goat cheese, to my salad for flavor and some protein,” says Hartley.

Different varieties of cheese contain different amounts of protein. A quarter-cup of part-skim mozzarella contains five grams of protein, while a quarter-cup of shredded Colby cheese contains nearly seven grams.

If you’re going to add cheese to your salad, be mindful of creamy cheeses, which can be high is both calories and saturated fats, and skip any heavy dressing, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. She recommends including only one high-fat ingredient in your salad, like avocado, cheese, or nuts.

Newgent recommends rolling small balls of goat cheese and pistachios to add an easy fancy feel to your salad.

chicken

 

 

There’s a reason this one’s a classic. A three-ounce serving of chicken breast (about the size of a deck of cards) packs between 15 and 20 grams of protein, says Gans.

Gans loves using chicken left over from dinner in her lunch salad the next day. She piles on the raw veggies and greens, plus a quarter of an avocado and sliced tomatoes.

turkey

 

 

We’re not telling you to roast an entire T-Giving bird just for your salad, but with seven grams of protein per ounce, turkey is a great source of protein, says Pincus. She recommends cooking lean ground turkey with a low-sodium taco spice mix. Add your taco-tastic turkey to a spring mix or standard greens along with avocado, cucumber, and tomatoes. You can also toss some black beans in there for extra carbs, fiber, and protein, she says.

soy

 

 

For a filling, meat-free salad, stock your bowl with the following: two-thirds vegetables, one-third soy protein (like tofu or edamame), and a small handful of fruit (like apples or berries), recommends Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. A half-cup of tofu contains 11 grams of protein, while a half-cup of edamame packs nine.

Prest recommends topping off your salad with two tablespoons total of nuts, seeds, crumbled, cheese, or avocado.

 

what-you-need-to-know-about-ketogenic-diet

What You Need To Know About The Ketogenic Diet Trend

Those of us who grew up in the age of Snackwell cookies and reduced-fat peanut butter may still be fighting the fear of eating food containing fat. And with the low-fat diet trend now seemingly swapped for butter and bacon crazes, it’s difficult to know what to think of this misunderstood macro anymore.

Let’s get one thing straight: Our bodies need some fat in order to survive. “Fat helps us absorb the vitamins D, A, E, and K, and is important for our immune function, hormonal balance, and our brain (which is 60 percent fat itself),” says Brian St. Pierre, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition. Still, if you surf the Internet for just a few minutes, you’ll see that the pre-millennial anti-fat campaigns have been replaced by the high-fat or ‘ketogenic’ diet. If you’re considering trying this style of eating for yourself, there a few things you should know first.

WTF Does ‘Ketogenic’ Even Mean?

‘Ketogenic,’ the term used to describe the increasingly trendy fat-based style of eating, refers to a specific metabolic state that dieters are trying to shift their bodies into. “Typically, our bodies run on glucose, which comes from carbohydrates,” explains St. Pierre. “But when fewer than 10 percent of our calories come from carbs, our bodies run on ketones, which come from fat in food or stored in our bodies.” Think of it like a backup generator.

What’s The Appeal?

The keto diet shifts the body into that burn-fat-for-fuel mode, which is otherwise achieved by fasting, says St. Pierre. Yep, ketosis is also how your body reacts to starvation, using stored body fat for energy.

While some turn to ketogenic dieting hoping to lose weight—it’s been hypothesized that ketogenic dieting boosts your metabolism because it’s harder for the body to use ketones for energy—your body does adapt, notes St. Pierre.

How Do You Actually Eat Like This?

Eating fewer than 10 percent of your daily cals from carbs requires a lot more than cutting out bread. To shift your body into ketosis, you can kiss fruit and starchy veggies like carrots or squash goodbye. “You need to get around 75 percent of your calories from fat for up to several weeks in order to achieve ketosis,” says St. Pierre. “That means you’ll also need to cut back on protein to somewhere around 20 percent of your total calories, because you can convert some of its amino acids into glucose.”

Here’s what a day of keto eating might actually look like:

Calorie rich breakfast
photo credit: iStock

For breakfast, you’ll eat about three eggs and some bacon, cooked in plenty of butter, says St. Pierre. You may be able to throw in some avocado and cauliflower. For lunch, you’ll go for a smaller (say three-ounce) portion of fatty meat, again cooked in butter, with a small spinach salad, crumbled cheese, and lots of dressing on the side. Then, for dinner, you’ll eat another small helping of fatty meat—and yep, more butter—with broccoli doused in olive oil and a handful of nuts.

Like you’re probably thinking, this style of eating is tough to stick to.

It’s Not All Butter And Rainbows

Sure, the idea of loading up on bacon sounds pretty good at first—but there are some downsides to a ketogenic diet you should know about before you buy yourself a Costco-sized tub of lard.

“Long-term, it’s very possible that you’ll miss out on fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs,” says St. Pierre. Ditching fruit may leave you wanting for phytonutrients and the antioxidant vitamin C, while cutting back on protein may lead to a zinc, copper, or iron deficiency, he explains.

Women of reproductive age, whose bodies are more sensitive to calorie and carb intake to support any potential buns in the oven, may especially want to think twice before going keto, says St. Pierre. “If women don’t get adequate carbs, their bodies may shut down reproductive ability,” he says. When women deprive their bodies of the energy source they typically run on, survival takes priority over reproduction, and hormone function and menstrual cycles become irregular.

St. Pierre also cautions anyone with a history of disordered eating from following a restrictive diet like keto. “These extreme diets feed into the cycle of guilt, restriction, and binging, because they’re so hard to consistently follow,” he says.

How To Enjoy Fat Without Going Hardcore

Some people say they feel great following a super high-fat diet, but most of us are probably best off sticking to a diet more balanced in carbs, protein, and fat. (What’s a life without bread?)

Healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, tree nuts, and seeds deserve a spot on your plate. “We recommend one to two thumbs of healthy fats at each meal,” says St. Pierre. (The size of your thumb is roughly a tablespoon.) That’s four to six thumbs of fat per day for a moderately active woman and six to eight thumbs for a moderately active man.

“Ultimately, if you’re really interested in trying keto, there won’t be long-term harm from trying it out for a month or two,” says St. Pierre. “Just make sure to mix up your fat sources and try to eat a variety of vegetables, and keep a close eye on how you feel, look, and perform.”

how-much-protein-do-you-really-need

How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

If you’ve ever hung around a gym for more than a few minutes, you’ve likely heard conversations—joking or serious—about protein, or seen people toting shaker cups full of some sort of muscle-building concoction.

Protein isn’t just for bodybuilders and muscle heads, though. After all, it’s one of three key nutrients in your diet.

Protein is responsible for keeping you healthy, says Joan Salge Blake, Ed.D., professor of nutrition at Boston University. “Protein gives you the building blocks you need to create cells that build things like muscle, hair, and skin.” And that muscle isn’t just the kind you see from the outside—it keeps your internal organs functioning, too, she says.

The amount required to keep your bod functioning properly is about 0.8 grams of protein per every kilogram of bodyweight, according to the USDA. That means a 130-pound (60kg) person would only need 48 grams of protein per day—the equivalent of one 7oz steak. Could that really be enough?

Related: The Best Protein Powder For Your Goals

“The USDA is concerned with keeping you alive and healthy,” says Mike Israetel, Ph.D., sports physiologist and co-founder of Renaissance Periodization. “If you want to enhance your body composition or if you have a high level of physical activity, then you’ll need more protein than their recommendation.”

So, how much of this macronutrient do YOU need? Identify which of the following four groups sounds most like you:

The Baseline Healthy.jpg
For an average individual without any chronic conditions who wants to maintain a healthy nutrient balance, the amount recommended by the USDA is suitable. It’s enough to maintain proper bodily function, help ward off diseases, and power you through the government’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week.

Endurance Athletes.jpg

If you’re participating in high-volume cardiovascular exercise, like distance running, cycling, or rowing, you need a higher protein intake to maximize your performance. Exercise doesn’t just burn fat—it burns muscle tissue, too. And if you’re not consuming enough protein to offset that loss, you could end up slowing yourself down unintentionally.

That’s why Israetel recommends doubling the USDA’s protein recommendation and aiming for 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. “This will help insure that you can maintain endurance without losing muscle,” he says. For a 130-pound (60kg) person, that’s 96 grams of protein each day.

Related: Find the perfect protein supplement for you.

Weightlifters.jpg

People who strength train frequently and want to build muscle need a bit more protein than endurance athletes do. Not only do you need to preserve the muscle mass you have during exercise, but you also want to gain more on top of that, explains Israetel. He recommends aiming for two grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight—that’s the USDA’s base recommendation multiplied by 2.5. For a 130-pound (60kg) person, that’s 120 grams of protein each day.

Fat Loss Dieters.jpg

If you’re looking to lose weight without sacrificing muscle mass, you need the most protein of all—3 to 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight. This extra protein will not only help you hang on to your lean muscle, but also keep you satiated when on a lower-calorie diet, says Israetel. For a 130-pound (60kg) person, that’s 144 to 168 grams of protein each day.

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We get it, that’s a lot of numbers to remember. But here’s the good news: You’re probably already getting much more protein than you think, without even trying. “On average, American men and women consume about 100 grams and 70 grams of protein per day, respectively,” says Salge Blake.

The only problem: You’re probably consuming too much of it at once. “Americans tend to bank most of their protein at dinner,” she says. Our bodies can only process around 30 grams of protein at a time, so we may miss out on some of the power macro by eating a huge portion of it in one meal, she explains.

Instead of gorging on a large helping of meat in the evening, try eating protein regularly throughout the day by aiming for 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal. If you’re really upping your daily protein, incorporate the same amount into your snacks, as well, says Salge Blake.

The best news of all: If you’re a healthy individual with a regularly-functioning metabolism, there are no known negative side-effects to over-consuming protein, says Israetel. (Except maybe the meat sweats.)

Save this infographic to make sure your protein intake is always on-point for your goals: 

how-much-protein-do-you-really-need

 

number-one-calorie-mistake-dieters-make

The Number One Calorie Mistake Most People Make When Starting A Diet

If and when you set out to lose weight, chances are you’ll start with changing the way you eat. Out the window go the pretzels, frozen taquitos, and slice-and-bake cookies, and into the fridge go leafy greens and chicken breasts galore.

To drop pounds in a sustainable way, though, axing your daily calories in half isn’t the magic bullet. In the video below, lifestyle and transformation coach Dylan Thomas, who created the training and meal plans for part one of our 90-Day Make It Count Challenge, shares some expert insight on cutting cals the safe (and effective!) way.

Related: Check out MuscleTech supps to help you meet your goals. 

protein-powder

17 Ways To Get Your Protein Powder Fix—Other Than Make A Shake

Any fool with a shaker cup can blend a great-tasting protein drink, but sometimes your taste buds just need more. Like, say, protein pancakes. Or protein cookies.

Consider that tub of powder your kitchen’s new power ingredient. Put down the shaker and get experimenting with these unexpected—and easy!—ways to get your protein fix.

  1. In the food processor, mix protein powder and cottage cheese or yogurt for a snack or dip that tastes like cheesecake. (Better yet, bloom gelatin in almond milk, add to the mixture, and let it set. Now you’ve got yourself an actual protein cheesecake.)
  1. Blend protein powder with a frozen banana and frozen avocado for protein ‘nice cream.’
  1. Make protein icing by whisking a small amount of water into protein powder until it reaches an icing-like texture. It’s a perfect topping for French toast!
  1. Stir protein powder into nut butter and spread on a whole wheat wrap. Roll a banana in the wrap and you’ve got a great grab-and-go breakfast.
  1. For that matter, stir protein powder into nut butter any time you want to spread the creamy deliciousness on fruit or toast.
  1. Make protein PB cookies by mixing peanut butter, vanilla protein powder, an egg, and sweetener of choice (liquid stevia, perhaps?), and baking for ten minutes at 350 degrees.
  1. When making a berry crumble—or any dessert with a crumbly topping—add vanilla protein powder to the crumble mixture.
  1. Whisk protein powder into cooked oatmeal for an extra-satisfying breakfast.

RELATED: Chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream, s’mores…There are so many protein flavors to choose from.

  1. Mix vanilla protein powder, nut butter, almond milk, and chocolate chips for a sticky snack that tastes like cookie dough.
  1. When baking, replace a scoop of flour with a scoop of protein powder. You’ll reduce carbs and boost protein without changing the texture of the baked good.

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  1. Mix a scoop of protein powder and frozen fruit of choice into yogurt. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight to make protein pops.
  1. Make protein cereal bars by mixing cereal, vanilla protein powder, melted nut butter, honey, and chocolate chips. Just press your mixture into a baking tray and pop in the fridge.
  1. Stir a scoop of protein powder into coffee or hot chocolate.

RELATED: Whether you love milk or prefer plant-based, there’s a protein for you.

  1. When making pancakes, swap a few scoops of flour out for protein powder. Or, mix protein powder, an egg, and a few teaspoons of coconut flour to form your own pancake batter.
  1. Mix a scoop of flavored protein powder into plain Greek yogurt and top with almonds, raisins, or other fruits and nuts for a high-protein breakfast or snack.
  1. Pump up your usual bowl of cereal by whisking a scoop of protein powder into your milk before pouring it over your favorite cereal.
  1. Make overnight proats by combining protein powder, oats, almond milk, plain Greek yogurt, and chia seeds in a jar. Add fruit or sweetener and refrigerate overnight.

Sources: Krista Scott-Dixon, Ph.D., Precision Nutrition; Jim White, R.D., owner of Jim White Fitness Studios; Jaclyn Jacobsen, M.S., The Vitamin Shoppe; Brooke Alpert, R.D., owner of B Nutritious; Brian Tanzer, M.S., C.N.S., The Vitamin Shoppe; Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Nutrition Starring YOU; Kim McDevitt, R.D., Vega National Educator