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9 Celebs You Didn’t Know Were Vegan

1. Mike Tyson

A plant-based diet helped Mike Tyson lose 100 pounds over a 3 year period.

A plant-based diet helped Mike Tyson lose 100 pounds over a 3 year period.

2. Betty White

92-year-old Betty White has been vegan for years and vegetarian for decades.

92-year-old Betty White has been vegan for years and vegetarian for decades.

3. Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton adopted a vegan diet in 2010 after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery several years earlier.

Former President Bill Clinton adopted a vegan diet in 2010 after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery several years earlier.

4. Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore is newly vegan, according to Forbes.

Former Vice President Al Gore is newly vegan, according to Forbes.

5. Joaquin Phoenix

Actor Joaquin Phoenix says he's been vegan since the age of 3 after watching a fish die on a family outing.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix says he’s been vegan since the age of 3 after watching a fish die on a family outing.

6. Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette says she eats vegan about 80% of the time.  She has done so since 2009.

Alanis Morissette says she eats vegan about 80% of the time. She has done so since 2009.

7. Usher

Usher turned to a vegan lifestyle in 2012 several years after his father died of a heart attack.

Usher turned to a vegan lifestyle in 2012 several years after his father died of a heart attack.

8. Russell Brand

Russell Brand has been a vegetarian for years, but switched to a strict vegan diet after watching the film "Forks Over Knives".

Russell Brand has been a vegetarian for years, but switched to a strict vegan diet after watching the film “Forks Over Knives”.

9. Woody Harrelson

Hunger Games star Woody Harrelson has been animal-free for over 25 years.

Hunger Games star Woody Harrelson has been animal-free for over 25 years.

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Friday Favorite: 10 Ways To Use Greek Yogurt

It’s creamy.  It’s healthy.  It’s packed with protein.  Best of all, it’s one of the most versatile foods around.  I’m talking about today’s Friday Favorite, a gift from the gods, GREEK YOGURT!

greek yogurt

My fridge is always stocked with at least one quart of the plain non-fat kind.   I’m not brand loyal, although there are lots to choose from.  I usually just buy whatever’s on sale.  An entire cup is only 120 calories with a whopping 20 grams of protein.

Sure, you can eat it like you would a regular cup of Yoplait, but there are so many more options.  Here are 10 things you can do with your plain Greek yogurt:

  1. Scoop out a serving and top it with your favorite fruit.  Maybe a little stevia or agave nectar.  Chances are you already do this.  It’s still delicious.  I like to buy the plain and add my own things to it to avoid added processed ingredients.  You also get more food for the calories.
  2. Add to your smoothie for a thicker consistency and protein boost.
  3. Throw a dollop or two into your favorite red pasta sauce or use it instead of heavy cream in your alfredo.
  4. Add a pinch of salt.  Instant sour cream!  Seriously, it tastes identical to the real thing.  Use on everything from baked potatoes to tacos.
  5. Use as a substitute for mayo.  Works especially well in things like tuna & egg salad.
  6. Greek yogurt + chopped cucumbers + dill + salt = tsatziki
  7. Skip the traditional pizza sauce.  Spread Greek yogurt on the pizza dough instead!  Add your favorite toppings & bake.
  8. Get a popsicle tray.  Make frozen yogurt pops.
  9. Slim down your favorite cookies and cakes by replacing half the amount of butter with Greek yogurt.
  10. Turn your already healthy guacamole into a protein-packed snack by adding a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt.  So rich.  So good for you.

What do you do with your Greek yogurt?  Tell me in the comments section below or e-mail me at thehungrytortoise@gmail.com.

7 Free Ways To Instantly Improve Your Health

I believe life-long health is a slow and steady journey, not a sprint.  That philosphy was sort of the inspiration for this blog.  But there are a few things you can do right now to dramatically and instantly improve your health.  They best part – they’re all FREE.  These actions may make you feel more in control which could boost your confidence, leading to bigger and better things.

  1. Floss: True story – I used to be a brusher only, not a flosser.  I didn’t have a single cavity through my mid-20s.  Then, all of a sudden, I had 4.  At the same time.  Then I developed potentially serious gum problems.  Then I started flossing every night before bed.  Then, like magic, all my mouth problems disappeared.  The moral of the story – not flossing catches up to you.  Think of your mouth as the gateway to your body.  Infections and inflammation there can lead to problems in other places, too.
  2. Drink More Water: To function properly, your body needs to be well-hydrated.  Aim to drink as much water as you can as soon as you wake up before doing or ingesting anything else.  Make it at least 16 ounces.  This will make up for any dehydration that occurred overnight.  It will help regulate your appetite.  If the water is cold, it could also significantly boost your metabolism.  Conventional wisdom suggests drinking eight 8 oz. glasses of water over the course of the day.  I always aim to drink more.  It helps me feel healthier and more energized, like this possessed dog:DRINK MORE WATER DOG
  3. Eat Breakfast: They call it the most important meal of the day for a reason. So many things can go wrong if you skip breakfast. Think about it!  You’ve likely gone without food or water for 10, maybe 12 hours.  You’re in starvation mode. You need fuel as soon as possible after waking to get going. Eating will help boost your calorie burning abilities, energy levels, and brain function.  And if you don’t eat breakfast, you’re more likely to over-indulge later in the day, which could lead to weight gain.
  4. Sleep More: Without adequate sleep, you could gain weight, become depressed, develop heart problems, have trouble learning and performing. Worse yet, you could become a real bitch to be around. Some people need 6 hours a night. Others need 8 or more. We’re all different. To find your magic number, start with 7 hours. If you’re still a slave to the snooze, increase the amount by 30 minutes each night until you feel rested. Attempt to keep a consistent schedule, even on weekends. And here’s a novel idea. If you have trouble hitting the hay on time, try a bedtime alarm.SLEEP MEME
  5. Move More:  It sounds like a no-brainer.  Movement is good.  But I’m not talking about deliberate exercise.  I’m talking about literally moving and standing more throughout the day.  We’ve become such a sedentary society that even those of us who make a point to exercise sit or lay down the remainder of the time, and there’s new research to suggest that this habit is not healthy.  Think about standing and stretching a few times during your work day.  Take a walk during lunch.  Sit on an exercise ball to engage your core.  Do what you can to work in more movement.
  6. Quit Smoking:  If you’re a smoker, you already know it’s bad for you.  Luckily now, there are a lot of free resources to help you quit when you’re ready.  Remember, your habit doesn’t just affect you.  It affects everyone around you, including your spouse, your children, and your pets.  If you continue to smoke, you will die sooner.  It won’t be quick.  You and your family will suffer slowly and painfully.  I’ve seen it happen to people I love.  And smoking is expensive!  You’re not just wasting $10 a pack on cigarettes.  You’re probably paying more for things like medical care and life insurance, too.  Which reminds me… this monkey asked me to ask you if he could borrow a few bucks.SMOKING MONKEY
  7. Switch Sweeteners:  For a long time, I didn’t care that artificial sweeteners might be bad for me.  All I cared about was that they didn’t have any calories.  To me, being thin was more important than being healthy.  But after lots of research and personal experience, I can tell you now that Splenda, Equal, Sweet’N Low, NutraSweet, ALL of them… they’re poison.  Studies have connected them to cancer, reproductive disorders, joint pain, Alzheimer’s, and even weight gain!  That’s right.  Calorie-free artificial sweeteners can actually make you fat by triggering cravings for other sweet foods.  The easy, quick fix is to switch to a natural zero-calorie sweetener like stevia.  It’s available and affordable almost everywhere now, even Wal-Mart & Aldi.

What tricks have you used to become healthier?  Share the news in the comments section below, or at thehungrytortoise@gmail.com.

The 13 Fittest Foods For Your Fridge (and Pantry)

When it comes to being physically healthy, what’s the secret to success?  It’s the million dollar question, but in most cases I’d argue the answer is a well-stocked kitchen that allows you to fix quick, nutritious meals on a budget.  Preparation is key, especially when you’re a busy bee.  And if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, remember that diet is paramount!  This graphic says it best:

OUTRUN YOUR FORKYou really can’t.  I’ve tried. I could be the only person in the history of life who actually GAINED weight while training for a marathon.

The following items are vegetarian and/or vegan and even better… versatile!  You can use them in all sorts of ways.  I list some ideas, but use your imagination.  They’ll also give you the most bang for your buck in terms of protein and essential nutrients.  Call this your secret superfood stash!

The 13 Best Foods For Your Fridge (and Pantry)

Almonds: A handful a day keeps the doctor away!  Raw nuts are best.  Almonds have more calcium than any other nut.  They also contain a healthy dose of fiber and protein to keep you full, with healthy fats and vitamin E!

ALMONDS

Almond Milk (Unsweetened): Aside from the fact that it’s vegan, I actually prefer the taste of almond milk over regular cow’s milk.  It can be more expensive, but it’s worth it.  Fewer calories.  Lots of calcium.  Also great for my friends with lactose intolerance.

Bananas: I ALWAYS have bananas around.  They’re usually inexpensive, and if they get too brown before you can eat them, ditch the peel and throw them in the freezer.  Use them in smoothies.  Or, make my guiltless Cocoa Banana Ice Cream.  It’s boyfriend approved!

Cacao: Look for raw and organic varieties.  You can buy cacao beans, nibs or powder.  All are a great substitution for regular cocoa in smoothies, shakes, baking, and more.  It’s better than your garden variety baking cocoa because it’s unprocessed and, therefore, more potent.  It could very well be the world’s most concentrated source of anti-oxidants.  It also has sky-high levels of magnesium and iron.

Coconut Oil: I love this stuff so much, I made it a Friday Favorite.  Click to find out why.

Eggs: When I attempt to go entirely vegan, these little babies always bring me back.  Nothing makes a cheaper, lower calorie meal than egg whites, veggies, and some whole grain toast.

Greek Yogurt: Yet another reason why it’s almost impossible for me to go 100% vegan.  Greek yogurt is so high in protein, so tasty, and so versatile, it’s just hard to give up.  I always keep a tub of the non-fat plain in the fridge.  I eat it with fruit and cereal.  I use it as sour cream.  I mix it with marinara sauce for an instantly creamy red sauce for veggies or pasta.  The opportunities are endless!

Lemons: An esthetician (the awesome Christen Michel) once told me that drinking fresh lemon water in the morning can help a puffy face.  It can also help a puffy body.  I like to drink as much lemon water as I can stomach in the days after an indulgent weekend.  The enzymes in the fresh lemon juice help your body work out extra waste.  If you’re feeling brave, add some cayenne pepper for a metabolic boost.

Natural Peanut Butter:  I don’t care what anyone says.  Natural peanut butter is better than regular.  It tastes better, and it’s better for you.  Before you buy, check the ingredient list.  You’d be surprised at all the things manufacturers hide in those jars.  Your goal is to find a brand with just ONE ingredient – peanuts.  MAYBE salt.  No sugar or syrup or high fructose anything.  Whole Foods sells a generic for about $4.

WHOLE FOODS PB

Quinoa:  I used to be a brown rice whore until I found quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah).  Why would you eat plain ol’ rice when quinoa provides so much extra protein?  In fact, it’s one of the few plants that can be classified as a complete protein.  It also cooks way faster than rice.  Eat it warm with stir fry or cold in a salad with fresh fruits splashed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Frozen Spinach: Spinach is the best for so many reasons.  It’s easy to find.  It’s one of the most nutritious foods available.  You can hide it in things (like breakfast smoothies).  And when you buy it frozen, it lasts forever.

Stevia: One of the healthiest things you can do for yourself right now is to ditch the artificial sweeteners.  They’re poison, and they can actually make you fatter.  I’m not kidding.  I gave up conventional diet soda almost completely 3 years ago.  I lost 10 pounds without even trying.  Stevia is a great way to naturally sweeten most anything, including coffee and baked goods, without adding extra calories.  Aldi sells a 40 packet box for just $2. 

ALDI STEVIA

Whole grain breakfast cereal:  Nothing makes a quick meal like cereal, day or night.  I’m a big fan of generic Grape Nuts.  The ingredients are scarce and simple.  Kashi cereals are also awesome, but beware of added sweetener.  “Organic cane syrup” might sound fancy, but sugar is sugar.

Did I miss something?  How do you keep your kitchen stocked?  Let me know in the comments below or e-mail me at thehungrytortoise@gmail.com.

Workout Wednesday: 10 Tricks To Get Motivated

I put “gym” on my to-do list EVERY SINGLE DAY.  And EVERY SINGLE DAY, I stare at the word “gym” and imagine ways to get out of it.  Yes, I ran a marathon, but that doesn’t mean I like the idea of exercise.  It takes time.  It takes energy.  It requires you to shower.  But showing up is 99% of the battle.  Once you’ve made it to the gym, you’re usually happy you did.  This meme on the web hits the nail on the head:

regret that workoutHere are 10 tricks I use to get motivated:

  1. Make a new playlist.  I have an iPhone, I pay for a premium Spotify subscription, and I will advocate it until the end of time.  It’s the best $10 I spend every month.  It gives you unlimited play on just about any song you can think of from your PC and your mobile device.  There’s a Spotify radio included now that’s almost exactly like Pandora.  It also allows you to compile new playlists from your phone on the go.  If you’re used to buying individual tracks and albums from iTunes, this might save you some money in the long run.  It’s worth looking into, I promise.
  2. Try Something New. Hot yoga.  Spin class.  Zumba.  The options are endless.  Challenge yourself with something different.  Mixing up your “routine” can make exercise (sort of) exciting again.
  3. Keep A Routine.  I know I just said to mix it up, but we’re all creatures of habit.  If you work out at the same time every day, you’re more likely to build momentum.
  4. Set Goals & Track Your Progress.  Want to lose weight?  Great.  But there are other milestones worth noting.  Keep a pen and paper in your gym bag.  Walk or run a mile as fast as you can every Monday, and try to get faster each week.  It’s satisfying to see exactly how your hard work is paying off.
  5. Register for an Athletic Event.  When I registered for the marathon, my first emotion was FEAR.   Fear is a powerful motivator.  You don’t want to look like an idiot out there.  You don’t want to let anyone down, so you prepare.  It’s as simple as that.  If a marathon is what you’re after, go for it.  But it’s just as good to grab some friends and hit one of those Color Runs… or a get muddy on the Dirty Girl obstacle course.
  6. Splurge on New Workout Gear.  Stylish athletic wear doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money (Lululemon, I’m looking at you).  Hit the clearance rack at Target!  TJ Maxx is a great place to look, too.  It’s important to feel comfortable and confident in your clothes.  That confidence will translate into a better workout.
  7. Stop Making Big Promises.  You ate a big dinner last night.  Maybe you haven’t worked out for a week., so today you sentence yourself to an hour and a half of hell on the stair-stepper to make up for your sins.  STOP!  NO!  What kind of impossible torture is that?!  You’ll never get to the gym if that’s the kind of punishment you have waiting.  Instead, promise that you will simply show up.  Commit to something non-threatening, like a light, 30 minute jog while you watch your favorite show.  Chances are, you’ll want to do more once you start sweating.
  8. WWDD.  What would Dexter do?  That’s right.  My dog, Dexter.  Imagine getting so excited over the idea of a walk that you bounced around the house like an idiot every time someone bumped the leash.  Not everyone is able to exercise.  It is a privilege, and someday, you might not be blessed with the mobility that you have today.  Try and remember that.
  9. Time Travel.  As humans living in the 21st century, thinking ahead to how we might FEEL in the future is one of our biggest weaknesses, because we’re constantly distracted.  Jump ahead to an hour from now and think how you might feel if you skip the gym.  Then imagine the opposite.  If you can really concentrate and put yourself in that moment of satisfaction after a good workout, you’ll be there before you know it.
  10. Just Do It.  Nike was right.  Stop over-thinking it.  Stop agonizing over it.  Stop stalling.  Stop making excuses.  If you want to look and feel better than you do right now… JUST DO IT!
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