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Fall Flavors – 4 Simple Recipes

October 8, 2014

There’s something about the crispness of the air and the sight of golden-red colored trees as far as the eye can see that brings me a sense of calm. Perhaps it is from growing up in New England, which does autumn better than anywhere else in the country, but I love the fall season. Here are some of my current go-to recipes starring my favorite fall flavors. Naturally, 3 of the 4 involve oatmeal with a seasonal twist!


Apple Pie Overnight Oats

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

Overnight oats are AMAZING for those of us who get an early start, are eating on the run, and need something that is delicious, nutritious, and portable!

Ingredients and Recipe:

1/2 cup dry oats, 1/4 cup coffee*, 6 oz. yogurt of choice (I used Yoplait Greek Apple Pie flavor), 1 scoop DeNovoNutrition Cinnamon Roll Whey protein (you could omit that and use powdered peanut butter to help it thicken).

Mix all and let sit overnight in fridge. In the morning add some peanut butter and apple slices!

*I NEED my caffeine in the morning, so I use coffee as my liquid of choice, but feel free to use water, milk, or perhaps apple cider(!) instead.

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats

Pumpkin pie overnight oats

Ingredients and Recipe:

1/2 c oats, 1/2 c brewed pumpkin spice tea, 1/4 c. pumpkin puree, 1 container Chobani Pumpkin Spice blend Greek yogurt, 1/2 scoop DeNovoNutrition Cinnamon roll whey protein, pumpkin pie spice to taste and a few tbsp of crunchy peanut butter. (As you know by now, my personal peanut butter choice is Krema brand!)

Mix all ingredients together, let sit in fridge overnight…and eat at 5:30 am on the way to run stadiums! :-)


Pumpkin Spiced Peanut Butter:

I have been anxious to try out some of the specialty pumpkin-spice flavored nut butters I have seen those I follow on social media channels posting. However, I just haven’t brought myself to actually order some. They are quite pricey, and generally have sugar added. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own. All you need is 3 ingredients, plus water and a spoon!

Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter

Ingredients and Recipe:

2 Tbsp powdered peanut butter (I prefer Pure PB by Crazy Richard’s as it does not contain any added sugar like most powdered peanut butters), Pumpkin pie spice to taste, 1 Tbsp pureed pumpkin.

Mix first two ingredients with water until desired consistency is reached. Mix in pumpkin puree and enjoy!

Chai Tea Latte Oatmeal

This final recipe is the perfect marriage of my love for oatmeal and chai tea/chai lattes. It came about on a whim one afternoon when I realized I had forgot to pack the fruit and protein powder I usually mix into my afternoon oatmeal. Not wanting to just eat it plain, I decided to add a chai tea bag into the bowl with oats and water before microwaving. It turned out AMAZING. Since then, I have refined the recipe a bit and now prefer to make it with vanilla-flavored almond or soy milk instead of water, to give it more of a latte feel!

Chai Oats

Ingredients and Recipe:

1/2 cup oats, 3/4 cup vanilla-flavored milk of choice, 1 chai tea bag.

Microwave as normal, add some sweetener if that’s your thing, and dig in. I am willing to bet you will wonder why in the world this isn’t a more common practice!

I’d love to know – what are your favorite fall-inspired recipes?


Bodybuilding FAQs + Lessons Learned

September 9, 2014

For those of you who don’t know, last month I competed in a bodybuilding show. Well, officially I competed in the Figure division. The show ended up being smaller than anticipated, so with no other bodybuilders entered, I switched to Figure the week of the show. Yes, learning to walk in heels at the last minute was *quite the challenge!

I kept most of the preparation a secret and didn’t make it public knowledge on this blog until I was already several months in. My reasoning for that is because I am not big into the constant selfie-taking culture and obsession with what people look like/are eating that is prevalent in the bodybuilding world. However, since sharing a bit more about my bodybuilding journey I a lot of people have asked me for details about my experience, so here we go with some answers!


1. Why did you want to compete in a bodybuilding show?

A combination of circumstances led me to decide to compete. 1. It has long been on my bucket list. I enjoy lifting and being lean, so it seemed liked something fun to do. 2. After running the Baltimore Marathon in the fall of 2012 I just kept getting hurt! Hip issues, broken ankle, torn ligaments, etc. forced me to take a very long break from running. During that time I spend a lot more time in the weight room and put on some more muscle mass. 3. I like having something to train for! Since running the Blue Ridge Marathon wasn’t going to happen I set my sights on something else. 1st it was a bench press competition. Then I kept feeling the urge to try bodybuilding, so I finally made the decision to just go for it! 4. I had access to a great support system with the bodybuilding know how. 5. Nutrition and exercise are my passions and I want to experience as many aspects of the sports/exercise nutrition field first hand as I can!

2. I could never starve and dehydrate myself like that. Weren’t you so hungry?

Umm….no. Did I have to cut calories back and diet? YES, of course! Did I ever truly starve myself? NO! Did I Dehydrate myself? Not even once! All of these things are common myths and/or practices that are not warranted. There were certainly days where my energy was low and getting through a workout and the work day was a challenge. I certainly missed out on some social events as well because I just didn’t have the energy or desire. However, I never got to the the point of being too aggressive with restricting my caloric intake. I know some people get down to eating less than 50 g of carbs a day during prep, but luckily my low days ended up being ~125 g at their lowest point. Part of the reason for this is because I started in a good place in terms of 1. being lean and 2. having a moderately high caloric intake with which to cut from.

Here’s a little breakdown of how dieting happened. As a Registered Dietitian I know food well enough to know fairly accurately what my caloric and maronutrient intake was leading up to prep. I started with those numbers and made SMALL cuts each week or every other week. For instance, one week I might cut just 10 grams of carbs a day. 10 grams! That’s less than a 1/4 cup of oats. Another week I might cut 2-3 grams of fat, which is the equivalent of ~5 almonds. It was a slow and gradual process so that I could preserve as much lean mass as possible.

Creating my daily meals was pretty simple for me as I just continued to eat the foods I was normally eating but changed the amounts to meet my target levels. I did have to get used to weighing my food out on a food scale, but it became a habit pretty quickly and wasn’t a big challenge for me. I used excel sheets (example below) with equations built in to easily edit my meal plans each day.

Nutrition LogA large food bank sheet in excel organized by “fat, carbs, protein, & high fiber sources” with equations built in allowed me to easily move foods in and out of my daily plan. Traveling so much did present an additional obstacle, but I was able to stay on track and estimate the macronutrient composition when I did eat out.

food bank

3. Are you pigging out now and enjoying all of those foods you couldn’t have before?

NO freaking way! I lost 10 lbs. over the course of ~5 months. I have no interest in putting it back on in a quarter of the time. My diet now is much the same as my diet at the end of contest prep, but I am “reversing” it. As I mentioned in question #2, I cut my calories VERY slowly (i.e. – 5 to 10 grams of carbs or 1-2 grams of fat at a time). Now I am adding back calories at a similar rate. The metabolic adaptations that occur with weight loss (link is a review paper on the topic) have essentially primed my body to regain that weight as fat if I were to all of a sudden “go off my diet” and just start eating whatever I wanted with no attention paid to my total macro nutrient intake. Therefore, my intention now is to stay diligent and slowly increase my caloric intake while keeping weight (specifically fat) gain to a minimum. Certainly I will put body fat back on – and I know I need to – but I am being cautious with my reverse diet to prevent a terrible rebound where I end up at a higher body fat percentage and weight than I was before bodybuilding ever crossed my mind.

4. What did you like the most about the process?

I liked having my workouts switched up from a focus on hitting a certain # of miles or a certain goal pace from my previous focus on training for trail/road races. I also found it REALLY fun and inspiring to see the changes in my physique overtime. Getting my body to a point where I felt I could be my own fitness motivational meme was really awesome! To compare – back muscles in 2012 vs. 2014!

Pull-up Comparison{2012 vs. 2014}

I also enjoyed learning more about myself. Specifically an important lesson about body image that I never truly understood until this experience.

If you’re not happy with your current self, no amount of muscularity or weight loss will magically make you happy.

While I don’t have an eating disorder, I have certainly had my fair share of body image struggles. Even though I know I have never been “fat” (and trust me, I have DXA scans dating back to 2008 which remind me of this), I have “felt fat” and made comments along those lines. I have wished that my thighs were smaller, my hips narrower, and my abs more defined many many times. Often times clients that I have worked with on weight loss endeavors have put a certain body image or weight in their head as the look or number that will result in happiness. While I steer those conversations in a more positive direction, I am also not immune to those thoughts myself. For some reason I often thought, “I’ll be happy with my body when I get to 115#”. Well folks, I finished this bodybuilding contest prep under 110#! While I was very happy with the physique I brought to the stage, I would still look in the mirror some days and find flaws and aspects to critique. Being hard on myself is just part of who I am and is me being realistic. However, I share this story as a cautionary note to those thinking of competing – do not get into this “sport” thinking that physically transforming your body will automatically mentally transform your relationship with your body or lead to ultimate happiness. IT WON’T. If you tie your self-worth to what you see in the mirror you will never be satisfied, no matter how great you look. This all seems common sense and is information I have relayed on to others numerous time. It just took actually going  through this physique sport experience before I truly internalized and understood the truth behind that sentiment.

Finally, as a result of having to hit specific macro nutrient goals each day and the additional challenge of SO MUCH TRAVELING this summer, I learned that I actually enjoy (or maybe I learned TO enjoy, is better wording) the following foods:

  • Black Coffee
  • Plain, 0% Fat Greek Yogurt
  • Egg whites. Mix up a bunch of cinnamon with them before microwaving and you have yourself a pretty tasty little treat!
  • Tuna and Salmon that comes in a pouch or can.
  • Crazy-dessert flavored sugar-free gums. The Extra Dessert Delights line-up = a lifesaver!

5. So, when is your next show?

Who knows! I am really enjoying the training and associated lifestyle and think I would want to compete again. However, it won’t be for quite a while. Physique sports are not like any other sport where you have another game each week. It takes a lot of time to 1. diet down, 2. reverse that progress to get your calories back to where they were before the diet, and 3. make increases in lean mass before another cut. So we’ll see. Until then, I will stay busy with grad school and training hard!

Until next time!


Pure PB Winners!

August 25, 2014

There were some seriously GREAT recipe ideas shared by readers in response to the Pure PB giveaway which made choosing my 2  favorites a challenge. However, I decided to choose recipes from 2 different ends of my personal recipe spectrum. One needed to meet my “rules” of a) less than 5 ingredients, b) all the ingredients needed to be items currently in my house and c) ridiculously easy. That narrowed down the field to winning recipe #1 from Patrick:

Pure PB Winner 1

The other recipe needed to be one of those “wish list” recipes. You know – the ones I always have intentions of trying out, but rarely get around to simply because the ingredient list gets above my “tolerance” level, it takes “too long”, or I just never have the motivation to actually make it. The winning recipe for this category came from Adrian! While I want to make it myself…if someone could just follow his instructions below and mail it to me, that would be MUCH appreciated! :-)

Pure PB Winner 2For my next post, I have started compiling answers to the most frequently asked questions I have been getting about my decision to diet down for a bodybuilding contest – and ultimately end up competing in the Figure division. If you have a question you would like to see answered, leave it in the comments section and I may include it! :-)

Until next time – stay active and eat some peanut butter!


Pure PB: Powdered Peanut Butter Recipe and Giveaway

August 17, 2014

It’s no secret – I LOVE me some peanut butter. Specifically, I love the Krema/Crazy Richard’s brand of peanut butter. The reason: 1 ingredient. PEANUTS. No added sugar and salt like most other peanut butters you will see on the supermarket shelf. Need proof of my love? Well, check out what happens when Krema coupons are loaded to my Kroger card and there is also a double whammy of a sale…

I. Buy. ALL. The. Krema.

That’s 3 rows deep of natural peanut butter folks. Not pictured: the opened jar in my fridge. It’s an obsession I am perfectly fine with.

Krema Stock Up

Shortly after the last giveaway I had for Krema/Crazy Richard’s natural peanut butters, the great folks at Krema products informed me of an exciting NEW product they are set to release – Pure PB. What is Pure PB? I’m so glad you asked. Pure PB is powdered peanut butter – but in true Crazy Richard’s/Krema fashion does not have any ingredients besides peanuts!

The Label Comparison (per 12 gram serving):

Pure PB = 1.5 g fat, 3 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, and 0 mg sodium vs. “Popular Powdered Peanut Butter” = 1.5 g fat, 5 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein and 94 mg sodium

Powdered peanut butters have essentially had the oil pressed out of them, making them much lower in fat than their conventional counterparts.

Pure PB jar

I will always prefer the taste of actual peanut butter over the powdered ones when consumed alone, but the powdered ones are great to use in a variety of recipes – especially when trying to lower the fat content of a meal! In the past I have used powdered peanut butters in my morning oatmeal, smoothies, mixed and melted with chocolate chips and in stir-fry dishes. When my shipment of Pure PB arrived, I quickly put it to use in those capacities and was NOT disappointed!

Pure PB

However, new product means it is time for a new recipe! With a surplus of zucchini needing to be put to use, I went with Raw Zucchini and Carrot “Pad Thai” with Spicy Pure PB Sauce.


  • 24 g (about 4 Tablespoons) Pure PB
  • 15 g (about 1 Tablespoon) Soy Sauce
  • 5 g (about 1 teaspoon) Rice Vinegar
  • Water to make sauce to desired thickness
  • Red pepper flakes to taste/spice preference!

Combine with ~ 2 cups each, zucchini  and carrots, peeled into noodle strips. Microwave and enjoy!

Vegetable Pad Thai with PB Sauce

The sauce was so good I may have actually drank the left overs at the bottom of my Tupperware….yah, guilty! This recipe has already been put into the regular rotation. Twice last week and in the line up for this coming week as well!

Up next on my “to make” list with Pure PB:

  • Peanut butter frozen yogurt. Mix with greek yogurt and freeze for a bit?
  • Flavored peanut butters. I love plain peanut butter, but sometimes the flavored versions call out to me. However, the ingredient list on those leaves much to be desired. Using Pure PB as my base would allow for easier incorporation of various flavors: Cinnamon-Raisin, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Cranberry-Almond…the possibilities are endless!
  • High protein peanut butter. I keep seeing different versions of these for sale from different companies. Basically they seem to just be a mixture of peanut butter and whey protein. Seems like something I could easily create on my own, but at a much lower fat level with Pure PB.

Enough of me blabbing – how can you get your hands on some Pure PB? Well, starting in September you should see Pure PB on store shelves as well as being available on-line at both the Krema/Crazy Richard’s website and on Amazon. If your store isn’t carrying it, just ask a manager to get it on the shelves for you! :-) Don’t want to wait until September? Understandable! So up for grabs to TWO Dine, Dash, Deadlift readers is the chance to WIN two jars of Pure PB before it hits the shelves.

To be entered: leave a comment with a recipe for using Pure PB. I want to know how you would use it…because essentially I want to steal your idea and put it to use myself! If you have a recipe already that you think Pure PB could be substituted in for another ingredient, help a girl out and post the link for all to see!

I will choose my 2 favorite recipe ideas* and Crazy Richard’s/Krema will send you your Pure PB gift pack! So put your creative hats on and start brainstorming some Pure PB recipes. Contest closes Saturday, August 23rd and winners will be contacted and announced Monday, August 25th.

*Contest only open to those 18 years of age or older and living in the continental United States.


Disclosure: Although I did receive Pure PB powdered peanut butter samples for free, all views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely and entirely my own and based on my taste preferences, education, and own unique experiences. I was not compensated for writing this post. Additionally, Krema/Crazy Richard’s peanut butter is a product I regularly purchase on my own, truly enjoy and I am happy to have the opportunity to team up with this company  :-)

Ok Monday – Let’s Do This!

July 28, 2014

Because sometimes we all need to put some mantras in our head to power through the challenges and hardships in front of us. Here are a few quotes and images I have on repeat right now…

No Matter How You Feel

Not feeling up to it? Suck it up, pull on your “Can Do Pants”, and Get in the Zone!

How to be Happy

You just woke up. Nothing has gone wrong or ruined your day just yet. Smile and keep it that way.

One Rep at a Time

Focus on a single task. Trust that each small piece done consistently will add up to something amazing.

Okay Monday – Let’s Do This!

But First - Coffee

Before I sign off it is time to announce the winner of the Swanson 45th Anniversary Giveaway. The randomly chosen winner is….

Swanson WinnerCongratulations Dale. Be on the lookout for an email from me with details on claiming your prize! :-)

Everyone else, don’t forget that you can still get entered into Swanson’s GRAND PRIZE Giveaway. A $500 shopping spree + a selection of 45 food items! I know – wowza!

What quotes and/or images are you leaning on to make this week amazing?


Celebrating Swanson’s 45th Anniversary: $45 Giftcard Giveaway

July 21, 2014

As I alluded to in a previous post, today I have an awesome giveaway lined up. In celebration of Swanson Health Products 45th Anniversary, we are teaming up for 1 lucky DDD reader to win a $45 gift card to!! This website has a great selection of healthy and unique food items (from coffee to pastas to your specialty nut butters and more) which will be delivered straight to your doorstep. Now that is convenience if I ever did see it!

Swanson 45


Some highlights of the Swanson site I find incredibly useful for busy folks like myself is 1: the ability to create a list of your favorite products for easy referencing back when you are ready to re-order, 2: the ability to schedule deliveries, and 3: the MASSIVE selection of products, which are all discounted quite substantially from retail (I.e. For all of you Quest Bar lovers you can order boxes for 25% off retail)! I honestly think you could order all of your food needs – besides produce, meats, and dairy - from Swanson. Talk about a grocery store time saver! :-)

Here is the list of the goods I tried out – along with a grade of each!

  • Choice Organic Northwest Blackberry Tea Not my favorite tea flavor. I will be sticking with my go-to Chai and Peppermint teas most of the time. Grade: C
  • Pereg’s Israeli Couscous Peark Pasta w/Pumpkin Seeds I was really looking forward to this, but wasn’t overly impressed. However,  I am not a pasta person, so that is likely why. Grade: C
  •  Sahale Snacks Glazed Cashews with Pomegranate and Vanilla Oh my goodness, amazing! Slightly sweetened and full of flavor. I actually ordered 2 bags and am so glad I did! Grade: A+
  • Peanut Butter & Co’s Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Peanut Butter Despite being a ‘PB-purist’ (i.e.- just give me plain legitimate peanut butter, please) I really enjoyed this tasty twist. However, I am not a fan of the added oil. Moving forward I may just mix some cinnamon and raisins into my regular peanut butter when I want a little something more. Grade: B
  • Walden Farms “Calorie Free” Caramel Syrup I know a lot of people who use Walden Farm products and I have been curious to see what they hype is all about, so I eagerly added this item to my cart. I found this to be overly sweet - which is saying something since it is supposed to mimic a very sweet product as is. I do see the appeal of using these very low-calorie products (let’s be honest, they are not truly calorie-free!), especially if ya know, you’re dieting for a bodybuilding show like moi :-), but it hasn’t become something I will use frequently! Grade: C
  • Andean Dream Quinoa Cookies – Coconut If you can get past these cookies being very tiny, they are quite tasty. I really like the quinoa and subtle coconut blend of flavors. Grade: B.
  • Dastony Hazelnut Butter In a world where Nutella reigns supreme and I constantly see folks justifying consumption because, “hey, it has hazelnuts in it”, I was excited to try out just pure hazelnut butter. While good, it doesn’t come close to replacing peanut butter as the #1 but butter in my life and I understand why it is usefully found mixed with chocolate and sugar! Grade: B.

Besides food, Swanson has a large inventory of hair and skin products as well as vitamin and mineral supplements. You guys know I am not about encouraging the whole world to reach for bottles of supplements, but if you take any you can bet Swanson carries what you are looking for!

So now, let’s get you entered into the giveaway for a $45 gift card to spend as you please! Mandatory way to enter is to post a comment on this post telling me what product(s) you would purchase if you win the $45 gift card. For an additional entry, tweet about this giveaway making sure the include 1. the link to this blog post, 2. my Twitter handle @NutritionNerd and 3. Swanson’s Twitter handle @SwansonVtitamins. Contest closes at 11:59pm EST on Friday, July 25th. Winner will randomly chosen and announced Monday, July 28th.

In addition to the giveaway here on DDD you should also go and check out Swanson’s Sweepstakes page for a chance to win the GRAND PRIZE of 45 Awesome Food Items and $500!


Finally, to stay up to date with Swanson and learn about future events and promotions, get social with their Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts!

Until next time,


Disclosure: For teaming up with Swanson Health Products for their 45th Anniversary Celebration I received $45 of free products to try out. As always, views and opinions expressed here are my own! :-)

Protein Bars vs. Whole Food Meals

July 16, 2014

Let’s talk protein bars today. Are they convenient? Yes. Are they tasty? Some are. Some are terrible. Can they be included in a healthful diet? Of course. Should we turn to them on a regular basis instead of whole food-based meals and snacks? No, no, no!

Protein Bars

Do I use protein (or ‘energy’) bars? Occasionally. I have certainly promoted them as a food option on this blog before (exhibit A). So why don’t I consume them regularly? 1. I prefer eating whole foods verse a candy bar in disguise (let’s be real, some have a similar nutrition profile as a Snicker’s bar). 2. Volumetrics! Protein/sports/meal replacement bars generally pack a hefty caloric punch in a small package. This can be a great reason to turn to them if you require a VERY high caloric intake each day, are out backpacking, or in a variety of other situations. However, generally they leave me unsatisfied and wanting more!

I am frequently asked about recommendations for different protein/sports nutrition bar and often it is from people trying to lose weight! While I always give some suggestions, I  put in the caveat of “use whole foods” first as much as possible. Doing so will keep you more satisfied and also supply you with more micronutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients for the same macronutrient breakdown. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to share with you a whole food-based meal/snack that is matched on grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat (and therefore total calories) as some popular protein bars.

BREAKFAST: CLIF Builder Bar (Chocolate Peanut Butter) vs. Oatmeal (1/3 c. dry), peanut butter (~1 Tbsp), blueberries (~1/2 c.), and egg whites (1/2 c. before cooking). Each come in at:

  • 20 g protein
  • 29 g carbohydrate
  • 10 g fat

However, in the fiber department the oatmeal breakfast outshines the CLIF Builder Bar (6 v. 4 grams).

CLIF v Oatmeal{1 Bar vs. Traditional Breakfast}

SNACK: Simple Truth Protein Bar (Double Chocolate) vs. 190 g Chobani Plain, Non-fat Greek Yogurt (~1 and 1/3 of the single-serve 5.3 oz. containers), almonds (~9), and ~1/2 a small-medium apple. Each contains:

  • 21 g protein
  • 16 g carb (2 g fiber in each)
  • 4.5 g fat

Simple Truth v Yogurt{1 Bar vs. Yogurt, Apple, and Almonds}


LUNCH or DINNER: PowerBar Protein Plus (Chocolate Peanut butter – Reduced Sugar) vs. 3 oz. tilapia (baked), 4-5 cups Sesame Kale Salad (45 g kale, 45 g carrots, 45 g cabbage), with sesame-dressing (7g olive oil, 5 g sesame seed oil, 5g sesame seeds, 20 g rice vinegar), and 3 oz. sweet potato. Each contains:

  • 22 g protein
  • 30 g carbohydrate
  • 9 g fat

Again, the meal wins in the fiber department (1 g v. 6g)

PowerBar v. Meal{1 Bar vs. All This Food!}

So…looking at them visually, which would you rather have on a regular basis – 1 protein bar or a more cohesive meal?



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