Mission Accomplished. Advocare 24 Day Challenge Advice.

I can’t believe I am about to say this, but I have reached my wedding goal weight… 13 days early.

I have been working towards this since October, but have gotten very serious since April 1st. Between intense workouts and a completely modified diet, it has been very hard work.

The Advocare 24 Day Challenge is what I give a lot of the credit to. When starting it in April, I was at a loss for how I would go about this lifestyle change. Upon its completion, I put together this list of advice for friends of mine who were about to embark on the challenge themselves. I hope that this list finds its way into the hands of other people who are looking to be successful on the 24 Day Challenge too.

Purchase the Challenge Bundle

Things I wish I knew before starting the challenge:

-Spaghetti squash, almond flour, hard boiled eggs, fresh ground peanut butter, and almond milk were all staples for me. A trip to Whole Foods may be a good idea before starting.

-Plan ahead! Knowing what you are going to be eating the night before makes a big difference! I also would sort out all the pills so that I didn’t have to worry about it throughout the day.

-I went through so much lemon and garlic. Great flavor without the calories. Also, Savory Spice Shop in Westfield has amazing spices that seem to have way more flavor than what you get at the supermarket.

-Google “paleo recipes”. They are carb and dairy free! I also use Pinterest a lot and there were some awesome idea there.

-Instead of planning out lunch each day, make an extra helping of dinner and reheat it the next day!

-The fiber “drink” during the cleanse phase is awful. Unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions so it doesn’t suck so much. The only perk is that you won’t have to do it every day.

-During the second phase, you get a protein shake. I suggest getting the chocolate one and then making it in the blender with water, ice, and a spoonful of peanut butter. It is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup!

-The supplements come with Spark energy drink. If it isn’t totally mixed with ice cold water, the clumps have a nasty aftertaste. I would make mine in my blender bottle (a plastic cup/lid with a metal ball that mixes the powder in. They sell them at Whole Foods too).

-I was told every day to stop weighing myself each morning. I couldn’t resist, but when the scale stopped moving for the last week and a half it was so discouraging. I would really suggest trying to wait until the last day, because even though is may be stuck at the same number, you will be losing inches.

-There were times when I really just needed something sweet. I always had sugar free Jello ready to go in my moments of weakness. 20 calories a serving!

Buffalo Burgers

Nothing beats a burger hot off the grill during the summertime! Right now, my diet is not allowing me to eat beef, but buffalo is an incredible substitute. Buffalo (sometimes sold as bison) has less fat than chicken. How is that possible? I think people shy away from it fearing that it will be gamey, but it isn’t. It is pure deliciousness!

The picture probably isn’t the best indicator of the burger because I was so anxious to dig in, I slathered it with vegan cheese and avocado. You can serve it plain, with salsa, paleo mayo, ketchup, or on a good old fashioned bun. This recipe makes two giant burgers, but could daily be split into smaller ones, just decrease the cook time.

1 pound ground buffalo
1/4 cup onion – minced
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat grill to medium high heat.
2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients with your hands. Do not mush together or overwork, it will make the burger too dense.
3. Form 2 large patties out of the meat mixture and add a sprinkle of salt and pepper to each side. Make sure to flatten them out evenly (meatball like burgers take much longer to cook).
4. Grill to desired doneness. About 5 minutes per side for medium rare.
5. Serve with any toppings you please, and enjoy!!

Grilled Brussel Sprouts

One of the great mysteries to me is why brussel sprouts have such a bad reputation. They are delicious! This recipe is so incredibly easy to make, and compliments any grilled meal.

10 oz. brussel sprouts
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste (I like mine salty!)

1. While grill is preheating to medium heat, trim the stem ends off the sprouts, place in a microwave safe bowl, and microwave on high for 2 minutes. This will soften them enough to skewer them.
2. Toss sprouts with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
3. Allow to cool until safe to handle, and skewer them on bamboo skewers.
4. Grill over medium heat while flipping until outer leaves brown (about 8-10 minutes).

Turkey Sausage with Peppers and Onions

I walked out to our garden this morning to see if any of out veggies were ready to go for tonight’s dinner. I noticed that one of our Italian roasting peppers as well as several Serrano peppers were set. This was very exciting! When I think of a meal that revolves around peppers, the first thing that comes to mind is sausage and peppers. Maybe growing up at the Jersey Shore in an Italian family has something to do with that! I have very fond memories of stuffing my face at the boardwalk with a giant roll covered in peppers, onions, and greasy sausage. This has all the flavor without the fat and carbs. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Serve it as is, or with a delicious side salad like this Tomato Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette.

1 package turkey sausage
1 large Spanish onion – sliced
3 peppers (use a variety of colors and heat) – seeded and sliced
2 cloves garlic – minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat the grill to medium high heat, and grill the turkey sausage while turning occasionally until the skin has crisped – about 10 minutes.
2. While the turkey sausage is cooking, combine remaining ingredients in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until peppers and onions are tender.
3. Remove the turkey sausage from the grill, and add to the skillet. Allow to cook for one more minute to absorb the flavors.
4. Serve as is, on a hard roll, or over pasta.

Tomato Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

O. M. G. How has no one ever come up with this before?! Ok, that is a bold statement, but I have never seen a dressing come close to this. I hope to say that I was the very first person ever to think it up, but there is no way that no one else has stumbled upon this incredible concoction before!

Our basil is starting to grow like a weed, a good weed that is! I was looking for a side salad to have with out meal tonight, so I decided to whip this up. It is absolutely scrumptious.

2 large ripe tomatoes
10 leaves basil
1 Tbsp. pine nuts
1 small clove garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Cut tomatoes into wedges and refrigerate to get cold.
2. Place remaining ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
3. Drizzle dressing over tomatoes, toss, and enjoy!

Watermelon Basil Spa Water

I posted my Lemon Berry Spa Water this morning, and sure enough, the entire pitcher is gone before dinner! That can only mean one thing… Try another flavor and make another batch!

10 leaves basil
1 cup watermelon chunks

1. Crumple the basil leaves in your hands to release their flavor and add to a big pitcher.
2. Add watermelon and then fill with water.
3. Refrigerate until ice cold and enjoy!

I can’t even claim this is a “recipe”, but hopefully it is a great suggestion for a combination that you may not have thought of!

Lemon Berry Spa Water

With the temperatures and humidity levels rising, it becomes even more important to drink large amounts of water. Sports beverages, soft drinks, and juices have way to much sugar in them. Iced tea and diet sodas are loaded with caffeine. Water is always the best option. Keep a pitcher of spa water in your fridge, and you will be surprised at how quickly your family drinks the ice cold and refreshing beverage. The longer it sits, the more flavorful the water becomes, so I suggest making a batch before bed and enjoying it for the day to come. This “recipe” can be modified to include any additions to your water or using club soda instead of flat water. I suggest trying combinations of the following:

1 lemon sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries

1. In a large pitcher, add fruit.
2. Fill remainder of pitcher with water.
3. Refrigerate until ice cold, and enjoy!

Spicy Asian Sugar Snap Salad

Tis the season for outdoor barbecues! Fa la la la la, la la la la.

We are psyched to go to my parents’ house this evening for some grilling and fireworks! Being on the Advocare 24 Day Challenge, it makes eating dinner away from my kitchen a bit sketchy. By bringing my own side dish that could double as my dinner just incase I can’t find anything else, it takes the pressure off me.

Our garden is thriving, and I want to share its yumminess with my family at tonight’s get together. The sugar snap peas won’t last much longer, so I decided to whip together a refreshing salad with them!

2 cups sugar snap peas
1 can sliced water chestnuts – drained
1 Tbsp. hot chili sesame oil
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. crushed ginger
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

1. In a small bowl, create dressing by whisking together hot chili sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes.
2. Place sugar snaps and water chestnuts in a large mixing bowl. Pour dressing over and gently mix.
3. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus Skewers

Who doesn’t love food on a stick?! This super simple dinner is quick and easy, plus it won’t heat up the house by using the stove or oven!

A major helpful hint is to soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes before assembly so that they don’t burn while on the grill.

Serves 2
2 dozen raw, deveined, peeled shrimp with tail on
1 bunch asparagus – cut into 2 inch pieces
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 Tbsp. white wine
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. pepper
Pinch of salt

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients.
2. On bamboo skewers, assemble by alternating asparagus and shrimp. Be sure to not leave exposed wood between shrimp and asparagus as it will burn on the grill.
3. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat grill to medium high heat.
5. Grill for 3 minutes on each side until shrimp are pink.
6. Serve as is or over a bed of rice.

Raw Zucchini Noodles with Spinach Pesto

It is July, which means it is hot and humid in New Jersey. The last thing I want to do when getting home from a tough workout is slave over a hot stove. This meal solves the problem! Make the spinach pesto in advance and then slice up the “noodles”, toss, and serve when ready to eat!

Serves 2
Spinach Pesto – click for recipe
3 large zucchini
1 medium tomato – chopped
2 tsp. toasted pine nuts

1. Prepare spinach pesto according to linked recipe.
2. Using the fine julienne setting on a mandolin, create noodles out of the zucchini.
3. In a large mixing bowl, toss pesto and noodles. Pile a mound of zucchini noodles on each plate, and top with diced tomatoes and toasted pine nuts.