Health Warrior Chia Bars Review and Giveaway

If we were in person together, I’d totally start telling you about these Chia bars by chanting, Ch, Ch, Ch, Chia! Side note: I have had several Chia pets in my lifetime, and they never grow as beautifully lush as the ads made them out to be. Typical. Thankfully, I now have a much more useful application for Chia Seeds in my daily life: as part of my diet! My tentative enchantment began when I started making pudding out of Chia Seeds, like this nommy Peanut Butter Cocoa recipe. Then, I worked briefly for a nutrition bar company, and one of the bars they recommend I try was the Health Warrior Chia Bars. Right away I was intrigued by their small size. I know that sounds weird because usually in America, bigger is better, but I was on the lookout for something I could tuck into my purse or waist pack for on the go. I picked up a mango bar and was blown away at the taste. Immediately, you notice the lovely, chewy texture, the real hunks of mango, and the nutty, toasty taste of the Chia seeds. Each of these bars has 3 grams of protein, 4g of fiber, 4g of sugar and is only 110 calories. Plus, they’re packed with 1,000 mg of Omega-3.

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Health Warrior has kindly sent over a few packages of Mango and Coconut Bars for my 3-Day team, and I know we’re all looking forward to fueling up with them over our 60-mile journey. If tropical delight isn’t your thing, you can also try Chia Bars in Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Banana Nut, Coffee, Acai Berry, and Dark Chocolate Cherry. I’ve had the Banana Nut before as well and it was like delicious banana bread in a tiny, compact bar that’s lots better for you than banana bread. Now, I might say I love this product, but how do we know it’s legit, and I’m not just another rambling blogger? Because Mr. Double Chin Diary has been going through these like crazy, and I actually had to hide the last two boxes from him and remind him that these are for my walking team! Usually he turns his nose up (and usually, rightfully so) at the variety of chalky protein powders and stuff that makes its way into the house.

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Let’s talk about the nutrition stats for a moment. While these bars aren’t 100% organic, they use a bunch of organic ingredients, and there’s NO CRAP in their ingredients. You can pronounce every ingredient, and it’s all stuff that’s, you know, actually made out of food! These bars are dairy free, gluten-free, soy-free, and 100% vegan — and 100% tasty.

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Now! Enough about what I think about them. Let’s get you a chance to try them too. Enter now to win a box of Chia Bars, valued at $23.50 for 15 bars. The only mandatory entry is for you to hit “Easy Entry” on the Rafflecopter below. Then, score extra chances to win by doing the additional steps. This giveaway will end on Monday, 11/17 at 11:59 p.m. PST. GOOD LUCK!

 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops Review & Giveaway: All Natural Soda Alternative

SweetLeaf_SteviaLeaf_WaterEnhancers_DoubleChinDiaryDisclosure: I received free samples of Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops in exchange for a review.

It’s now been about a year since I gave up my dark master (Diet Pepsi) for good. I still crave it every now and then, but I find if I go for it and order a soda, the first few sips are like “Blech! Why did I used to think this stuff was good?” I now drink a ton of iced tea, perrier, and water, and occasionally I’ll splurge on something delicious and caloric, like a Mexican Coca Cola or Izze. When an announcement about Sweet Leaf ended up in my inbox, I knew I wanted to try it. The problem with so many water enhancers or flavor additives is that they’re full of garbage and chemicals, or if they’re low-cal, they’re packed with aspartame. Sweet Leaf is USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO project verified, gluten-free, and zero carb/calorie.

Upon first tasting, I thought the drops tasted good, but there wasn’t enough flavor. I was putting two drops in per 8 ounces of sparkling water. Then, I read the directions again and realized it was two drops per OUNCE of sparkling water. Duh! No wonder I wasn’t getting the flavor I wanted. I re-did it and was pleasantly surprised at the simultaneous sweet but light taste of Sweet Drops. My favorite of the four flavors I tried (Lemon, Berry, Orange, Cola) was definitely cola, followed by orange. Another small but important thing to me? No gross coloring. The Cola flavor adds a very slight caramel tint to the water, but you’re not getting any hues that will turn your tongue into a rainbow.

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These are affordable ($9.99 for a three pack), and the small size is easy to slip into your purse to have your own flavored water anywhere you go. I liked using the berry flavor in still water with a few smashed raspberries — it felt like a fancy cocktail, but with no calories and no booze. I like, I like. Sweetleaf also carries funky flavors like Pumpkin Spice, Peppermint Mocha, Chocolate Raspberry, Rootbeer, and Grape. Can you imagine baking with these, or using them as yummy flavors for coffee? My friends at Sweetleaf are giving you a chance to win a full-sized bottle of Cola drops (ARV $15.44), and all you have to do is “like” Sweetleaf on Facebook. This is on the honor system, and I will be checking that the winner has “liked” Sweetleaf on Facebook. Once you’ve “liked” them on Facebook, please leave a comment on this blog post. I’ll give you two extra entries each for sharing on Facebook or sending a tweet — let me know if you do those actions in the comment you leave. I’ll pull a winner a week from now, next Sunday at 8:50 p.m. GOOD LUCK!

Enter for a chance to win! Simply Like Sweetleaf on Facebook and leave a comment.

Enter for a chance to win! Simply Like Sweetleaf on Facebook and leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want a chance to win 1,000 Diet to Go meals?! Of course you do!

It’s January. Which means the gyms are filled with resolutioners and hopefuls, those embracing a new, active lifestyle. I say… “more power to them!” But — we can’t forget that some health enthusiasts fully believe that “Abs are made in the kitchen.” (I think my jellybelly was made in the kitchen too, but I digress!) Because you can’t embrace a new, healthy lifestyle without embracing a new, healthy eating plan, now’s your chance to give Diet to Go a try – for free! Diet to Go is offering up a chance to win 1,000 meals! Say whaaaaat?!

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Your chances are good, guys. I admit — I’m lucky and I win raffles pretty frequently. Today, I’m sharing the good luck ju-ju with you! Here are all the awesome details:

• 5 lucky winners will receive one month of free meals! (Dude – I lost 9 pounds in a month!)
• 20 winners will receive a free week of meals! (And averaged 2.4 pounds per week)
• 25 winners will receive a $50 Diet-to-Go gift card! (With code NEWYEAR2014 you can save an additional 25% off!)

It’s easy. Simply enter your email address for your chance to win! Receive up to 5 bonus entries just by liking and sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Plus, get unlimited bonus entries for each friend you refer! You can even enter right here, without having to go to any other website.



Now — want a few more chances to win? Of course! Join me and some other members of the Diet to Go Dream Team for a Twitter Party on January 7th at 9:00 p.m. EST. We’ll be talking about the Anti-New Year’s Resolution, which means using common-sense to make lifelong, lasting changes towards health. (It’s not about a diet or quick-fix. It’s about a lifestyle change) 1 randomly drawn chatter will win a Fitbit Flex Wristband or a Fitbit scale and 3 randomly drawn chatters will win 1 week of free meals. If you guys have never done a Twitter Party, it’s fun, I promise! You answer questions sent out into the Twittersphere by @diettogo using the hashtag #diettogo, and each answer gives you more chances to win.

Enough of me blabbing – let’s get to WINNING! Enter now and please let me know if you have any questions :)

***Diet to Go is compensating me for helping to promote this sweepstakes. As a reminder, I only promote things I believe in — no B.S. here!

 

Fitcation Recap 3: Earth Footwear, Halter Ranch, Hearst Castle and Morro Bay

Disclosure: The costs of the events and activities for Fitcation were defrayed by sponsors, and the attendees were contractually obligated to write a summary of the experience and also received free swag items. However, the thoughts and opinions I’m sharing in this post are honest and my own.

I’ve written about Fitcation 13′ here and here, and even though I wish I could have stayed on this vacation forevvvvver, I have to wrap it up! Last I left off, we were on our way to the beautiful Halter Ranch, another gorgeous location in the lovely Travel Paso region. When you arrive at Halter Ranch, you first see this beautiful Victorian home and lovely wooden bridge. However, once you walk past the wooden bridge is where the true splendor awaits; hundreds of rolling acres of winding grape vines, dusty dirt paths and expanse of beautiful blue sky.

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Beautiful vineyards at Halter Ranch in Paso Robles, Calif.

We took a hike up to a very special oak tree, called the Ancestor Tree, one of the oldest oak trees in California. The branches of this tree were large enough to shade over 35 people! Here I am looking tickled to be in such an amazing place.

The Ancestor Tree, Halter Ranch

The Ancestor Tree, Halter Ranch

After hiking up to the tree, we headed back to the winery, where we treated with a tour of the wine-making rooms. I loooooove the smell of wine being made. It’s not only deliciously boozy, it’s a rich, sweet smell… grown up grape juice, y’all. We learned more about the SIP Certification and how important ethical, green business practices are in today’s green-washed consumer culture (green washing = everyone and their mom saying things are green because they’re “natural” – marketing buzz words that have no truth or verification behind them!).

Where the magic happens - Inside Halter Ranch

Where the magic happens – Inside Halter Ranch

After our education, it was off to a beautifully decorated barn for dinner and EARTH SHOES! Now, if you know me in person, you know I have a bit of a problem with shoes. As in, there’s a whole storage trunk full of shoes in my house. Only one problem… they’re all MY shoes. Yup. Maybe it’s the big-girl syndrome, but often, shoes are the only things I can buy without worrying about size, and even saying that is a stretch — as a size 11, I’m lovably larger in all ways! I was excited to learn more about Earth footwear because one of my favorite stories about my mom and dad’s relationship is that when they first started dating in the 1980s, my mom thought my dad was a hippie because he wore Earth shoes. Back then they were way less fashionable, but made of premium materials, as they still are today. We got to try on shoes and I was generously gifted with these adorable Bellflower shoes in Pewter. These shoes have not left my feet for the past week! They’ve really molded to my feet and are sooo comfortable. They’re padded with three layers of material and the leather has definitely conformed to the shape of my foot. If you “like” Earth on Facebook, you’ll be the first to know about sales and deals. Believe me — these shoes are worth the price, and for those of you who want shoes in non-animal material, they have plenty of adorable vegan options as well.

Loving my new Earth Brand Bellflower Flat!

Loving my new Earth Brand Bellflower Flat!

After our shoe presentation (did I mention we each got a five minute reflexology foot massage? Mmmhmmm. It was awesome), we enjoyed an amazingly yummy dinner of spaghetti squash with turkey bolognese, roasted zucchini and squash, kale salad and some delicious artisan bread. And wine! LOTS OF WINE! I have some very funny pictures from this evening that I’ll not post on this blog, as I’d like to keep some of my new friends ;) Let’s just say 35 women who are all pretty chatty (aka BLOGGERS) plus booze plus vacation = some pretty wild conversation.

Locally sourced dinner at Halter Ranch

Locally sourced dinner at Halter Ranch

After dinner, it was back to the hotel for a night of sleep before DAY THREE: MY FAVORITE! We woke up early in the morning and headed to the amazing Hearst Castle! I had been to Hearst Castle before with Matt, but it’d been a few years. I enjoyed a private car pool with three of my new buddies, Deb, June and Ana-Lydz. One thing that sounds corny but I think is important for women to remember is that we really need to value friendship with women of ALL ages. In that car, we had many different ages, but each of us had something special to contribute to the conversation. Our chatter never stopped, and I felt so lucky to get to gab to them! We arrived at the amazing Hearst Castle, boarded the shuttle up the hill, and were off to William Hearst’s castle in the hills. I have to say, I’m a big sap, because seeing those amazing mountains and the ocean in the distance was just breath-taking and brought a tear to my eye. I’m so glad my Dad moved us here 15 years ago :)

Hearst Castle in the San Simeon Hills

Hearst Castle in the San Simeon Hills

Check out some of the gorgeous sculptures and flora around his home. I wouldn’t mind living here for awhile. I’ll say this much, none of the houses we’ve been hunting for look like this…

The grounds at Hearst Castle

The grounds at Hearst Castle

One of my favorite spots is the Neptune Pool. I wanted to rip off my jacket, throw on a swimsuit, grab a trashy magazine and set up shop RIGHT HERE. Sounds good, right?! Here I am with Leah, the founder of Fitcation and Mamavation!

Alyssa and Leah at the Neptune Pool

Alyssa and Leah at the Neptune Pool

And because one pool wouldn’t be enough, Hearst also had a second pool, the Roman Pool. I think I might almost like this one better. Breathtaking.

The Roman Pool, Hearst Castle

The Roman Pool, Hearst Castle

After Hearst castle we got back into our cars and headed to Cambria! We enjoyed a yummy lunch from Robin’s Restaurant, and then we did some yoga on the beach, led by Kia. It felt soooo good to stretch out my body with the sun on my face, the sea breeze gently lapping my hair, and the sound of the waves crashing against the sand. I need to get into yoga again, because it’s a great workout and has a magical calming effect on my monkey mind.  How amazingly gorgeous is this picture of Kia from Bodhi Bear doing Yoga on the cliffs?

Kia and the waves.

Kia and the waves.

Here I am with Meagan doing the Warrior Pose. Meagan and I have a great story to tell you sometime this week about our amazing kayaking trip, but it’s such an awesome story that it needs its own post :)

Warrior Girls aren't afraid of a little sand in their clothes!

Warrior Girls aren’t afraid of a little sand in their clothes!

We wrapped up the activities of the day at Morro Bay, a lovely seaside town with a huge rock jutting out of the bay. I definitely need to return here for a fun weekend trip with the husband. Half of the gals went kayaking, while the other half enjoyed some libations at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. I have lots more to say about the awesomeness that ensued while kayaking, but like I said, I’m saving that for another post :)

The amazingly beautiful Morro Bay

The amazingly beautiful Morro Bay

The final Fitcation gathering was enjoying a feast of yummy pizzas at Eatz  in San Louis Obispo, and then I said my goodbyes. I feel so very, very lucky to have met all of the women I did, and hopefully, we’ll all stay in touch. Also, a huge thank you to the wonderful sponsors of Fitcation for the meals, activities, swag and education. It’s amazing to think this little blog has brought about so many wonderful experiences. Last week, I noticed that in October of 2012, I was celebrating 150 Facebook likes. Today, I’m just over 1,400. WOW! While I know my journey has barely even started in terms of getting the weight OFF, I’ve learned so much about myself, fitness, food and health in general that it’s safe to say this blog has become a very special part of my heart. Thank you for that! *cheese fest over*

Now — because I can’t be the only one who gets to enjoy the awesomeness of this trip, if you leave a comment on this post, you’ll be entered to win a MYSTERY GRAB BAG of some of my swag items! Just leave me a comment and let me know if you’d like to travel to Paso Robles, Cambria, Morro Bay and San Louis Obispo, too. I’m pretty sure you would ;) Have an amazing day!

 

Love,

The Double Chin Diary Siggy

 

 

Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free Cookbook Review and Giveaway

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Hi everybody, happy Friday! A few months back I had the opportunity to sign up to review a new cookbook by Ricki Heller called Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free.  I knew back then that following the PCOS diet would mean making healthier choices in regards to sweets, and trying to eat as close to low-glycemic as possible would be a huge puzzle piece in my efforts to get fit. The book first attracted me because of the gorgeous cupcakes on the front cover. Although I can get down and dirty in the kitchen, I don’t consider myself a great baker… EXCEPT for making and decorating cupcakes. A few cake deco classes later, and I’m pretty confident with my swirly-topped creations. I have to admit that sometimes, the words gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan make me skeptical. Is it *possible* to have delicious tasting treats without butter, cream, eggs, or sugar? The answer is yes, and I know from both Lenny & Larry’s Vegan Protein Cookies and this new cookbook that vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free CAN mean delicious!
As a highly visual person, one of my favorite things about this book is the gorgeous photography by Celine Saki. There are more than 60 full-color photographs in the book, which makes me happy because I think the most important part of any cookbook, besides the recipes, are the pictures. Doesn’t this picture of Cinnamon Buns make you drool? I’m a sucker for gorgeously styled food photography, and I must be the daughter of a photographer because today I was even pondering buying one of those mini light boxes for amateur food photographers.

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Heller also spends some time discussing how she came to be a food blogger and natural foods baker. She struggled with IBS and various tummy ailments her whole life, until she learned to start eliminating wheat, sugar and processed foods from her diet. Her story is similar to so many people I know, including my best friend, and I always appreciate it when authors give personal context to their work. Heller also provides a handy breakdown of the different types of non-wheat flours and sweeteners, which was helpful to me as I cheated a little bit in the upcoming recipe and used pre-ground Almond Flour by Bob’s Redmill. Shhhh.

The recipe I decided to test first was the “Easiest Almond Cookies”. The relatively short ingredients list appealed to me, and other than flax seed, I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. I was slightly intimidated by the process of grinding my flax seeds at first, because my food processor wasn’t seeming to “grind” them — just whirled them around helplessly. I finally realized if I jiggled the processor a little bit as it spun, it hit the seeds just right to turn them into crumbly, coarse meal.

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

Once I got past the step, the recipe lived up to its name, and they were pretty darn easy to make. I especially like that these are “smush” cookies, meaning you get to roll the dough into little balls with your hands, which I always think is fun. What can I say, I’m still six years old in a lot of ways :) After a brief visit in the oven for just eight minutes, my cookies were delightfully firm around the edges but still chewy and soft. I barely let them cool, took a bite and was pleasantly surprised by how clean they tasted. Most cookies are so sweet that you’re kind of sugar-shocked with the first bite. These have a very delicate, light taste with a fragrant almond after taste. The texture would be lovely with a dark British tea like PG Tips. I did make one small substitution by using coconut oil instead of the suggested sunflower oil, as I had it on hand and am loving all things coconutty.

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You can find the recipe at the bottom of this post, but because you guys are awesome and so is Ricki Heller, she’s graciously offered one copy of the book to one lucky Double Chin Diary reader. To enter is pretty straight-forward — just leave a comment on this post telling me which recipe from the book you’d most like to try. You can read about a few more recipes at this webpage. For an extra entry, “like” Ricki Heller on Facebook or follow Ricki Heller on Twitter.  Just let me know in the comments if you did either, and I’ll count your entry twice. This giveaway will end one week from now, on Friday, October 4 at 11:59 PM PST. GOOD LUCK!

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

This recipe is from Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free by Ricki Heller. Recipe re-printed with permission from Sellers Publishing, 2013.

Yield: 15 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (12 oz or 340 g) natural raw skin on almonds, preferably organic
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) finely ground flax seeds (from about 2 Tbsp or 30 ml whole)
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) pure almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water, if necessary

 

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
  • 2. In the bowl of a food processor, whir the almonds, flax, baking soda, and salt until you have a very fine meal (it should be the consistency of a coarse cornmeal or fine breadcrumbs, with no large pieces of almond visible). Watch that you don’t blend so long as to obtain almond butter, however!
  • 3. Add the agave nectar, oil, and extracts, and process again just until the mixture holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl. It should look like a moist dough. If the mixture is too dry, add the water and pulse quickly to blend.
  • 4. Using a small ice-cream scoop or tablespoon (15 ml), scoop the dough and roll into balls; place them about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Wet your palms (or use a silicone spatula) and press down to flatten each ball to about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
  • 5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through baking, until the edges are barely golden brown and the cookies are dry in the center (the tops will still be light). Allow to cool completely before removing from the cookie sheets; the cookies firm up as they cool.

**** A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes, and an affiliate link to Amazon is included above. As always, all opinions are always 100% my own!

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