RECIPE | My Panera-Inspired Baja Warm Grain Bowl


There is a Panera less than a half-mile away from my home. Needless to say, I'm a regular. Usually, in the Fall/Winter months, I opt for the White Cheddar Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup - YUM! But, last week, I tried something different, and it was just as tasty.

Panera, known for its healthier take out food options, announced their new Warm Grain Bowls. These bowls come in two versions; Baja and Mediterranean. I tried the Baja (Californian-style), and it didn't disappoint! It was fulfilling and included some super nutritious and heart-healthy ingredients. With the new year, I'm challenging myself to make more of what I want at home. Luckily, I had most of the ingredients necessary and was able to further customize my very own homemade grain bowl!
How I made it...

Ingredients:
- Black and Brown Rice Mix
- Quinoa
- Vegetable Broth/Stock
- Avocado
- Black Beans
- Tomato
- Red Onion
- Plain Greek Yogurt
- Lime
- Sea Salt
- Black or White Pepper

Helpful Cooking Tools:

Instructions: In a medium pot, bring 1 and 1/2 cups of Vegetable Broth/Stock and 1 cup of Water to boil. Add 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil and 1 tablespoon of Sea Salt. Pour in 1 cup of Black and/or Brown rice mix and 1/4 cup of Quinoa and cover. Let the mixture cook (periodically stirring) until the desired grain texture is reached, then set it aside. Dice a small fresh Tomato and Red Onion and season with Pepper, Herbs, and drizzle with Lime Juice. Slice or dice an Avocado and set aside. Use 1/4-3 cup of canned Black Beans (rinsed) and set aside. Place the cooled (warmed) Rice/Quinoa mixture in a bowl. Place each fresh ingredient in sections atop the bowl. Top your dish with a dollop of Plain Greek Yogurt.


Recipe Substitutions and Tips:
- Plain Greek Yogurt -> Low Fat Sour Cream
- Black Beans -> Pinto or Kidney Beans
- Grains -> Any whole grain will do! I'll be trying this next time with Couscous, and you can even toss in some fresh Corn.

Enjoy!


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(Trailer) THE BIGGEST LOSER is coming back in 2020 and why I'm giving it the BIGGEST side-eye

The Biggest Loser 2020 Host Bob Harper, and Trainers Erica Lugo and Steve Cook.


After a 4-year hiatus, the once canceled and controversial series, The Biggest Loser is making a return to TV in 2020. According to the show's long-running trainer-turned-host, Bob Harper (we'll dig into why I'm giving that the BIGGEST side-eye), this time will be different.

Just in time for #ResolutionSeason, the show will reboot for its 18th season on January 28th on the USA network. The focus will not be on “getting skinny,” host Bob Harper told People Magazine. The show will focus on “getting healthy.” Contestants will learn how to make nutritious meals and will participate in group therapy for help shifting their lifestyles."


This all sounds great, but... can we first address the elephant (touché) in the room?

After years of filming, many contestants went to the media to pull the curtain back on the shenanigans happening behind the scenes. Alleging that the story of those dramatic weekly weight losses weren't just deriviative of fitness competitions and healthy, well-porportioned meals, but also diet pills, diuretics, uppers, dehydration, and, yes, even starvation.

The Biggest Loser had a BIG problem! It was claimed by Season 2 contestant, Suzanne Mendonca that, “People would take amphetamines, water pills, diuretics, and throw up in the bathroom. They would take their spin bikes into the steam room to work up a sweat. I vomited every single day. Bob Harper tells people to throw up: ‘Good,’ he says. ‘You’ll lose more calories.’

On principle alone, I'm so perplexed as to why the rebranded show is retaining Bob Harper? Admittedly, over the show's tenure, Harper was considered the friendly trainer. His approach was a bit gentler than his counterpart drill-sergeant-esque trainer, Jillian Michaels. While both had unique training styles on-screen, their off-screen methods (or approval of alleged practices) appeared to be aligned.

The show was just that, a show... entertainment. Another riveting, must-watch production. But this time, the draw was fat voyeurism. In many of the "where are they now?" features, those that were willing to come forward often had regained their weight or donned new health problems as a result of the crash dieting and unhealthy weight loss methods while competing.

Again, why is this coming back?

Granted, when this series debuted in 2004, I was a fan! I was also a young college student. Living away from home for the first time, trying to figure out life, emotionally navigating a recent Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, and struggling with my own weight. I had experienced the Freshman 40, forget a 15! Sidenote: I wish I was that kind of fat NOW! This show seemed to come right on time.

My university had a gym, but I didn't know what I was doing. There was healthy food in the cafe, but it was not appetizing at all. Nothing worked! But, watching Loser gave me a glimmer of hope. Surely, if THEY could lose some weight with hard work and gross healthy food and lose 10-15 pounds a week, so could I!? Those ginormous weight loss numbers on the scale were motivating. And deceptive. I remember feeling emotionally tied to the contestants. Feeling their pain and frustration when they had "only" accomplished a loss of 4-6 pounds in a week. Sigh.


Well, times have changed. What was considered cool in the early-2000s (to include baggy pants, oversized Iverson jerseys, and frosted tips) just doesn't cut it anymore. The show was long-tagged for being a catalyst for fat-shaming. Either way, society has evolved! With more consciousness and conversations on mental health, self-care, self-love, and holistic wellness - the approach to weight management has transformed as well.

While the show on paper is adjusting to this new wave of thinking, some experts feel that while it could be less harmful than seasons past, it still paints a nonsensical picture of weight loss. Bring in the cash prize (people will do something strange for a little change, let alone a quarter of a million big ones), and the fact that winners are still determined by weight loss percentages... a scale.


Sarah Adler, a psychologist at the Stanford Eating Disorder and Weight Control Clinic and author, said she was pleased to see the language used by “The Biggest Loser” catch up with the way experts have talked about weight control for years — by focusing on health, rather than body shape or size. She said the show, however, still aims to make contestants as thin as possible, which impedes them from accepting their bodies and making healthy weight-related decisions. “I think the devil’s in the details,” Adler said. “If they are paying lip service to make these taxonomic changes or these language changes but still promoting idealized weight and shape, then we’re not really getting anywhere.”

Cynthia Thomson, a health promotion sciences professor at the University of Arizona, said that regardless of other adjustments that the show has made for the upcoming season, its unchanged premise of encouraging contestants to lose weight as quickly as possible is still unhealthy. “When you take people who really have quite significant metabolic dysfunction and body size, and you make this rapid weight loss, I don’t care if you help them with sleep, or you give them a class on stress or teach them how to breathe and relax,” Thomson said. “It’s just not going to be enough if you have put them through this 100-pound weight loss in a very short time period.”

To be fair, the last iteration of the show, which aired in 2016, had begun to adjust in a positive way. It had nixed the "mean" trainer Jillian and portrayed a softer tone. The competition aspect was more collaborative and uplifting, no longer highlighting the conniving, yet strategic gameplay amongst the teams. So, maybe there is hope?

If this is genuinely a new leaf being turned over for the series, then good on them. But, if not... we don't want or need it. Long-term health and the delicacy of an individual's well-being will always be more important than soaring network ratings.

Will The Biggest Loser be a winner in 2020? We shall see...

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Ms. G's Kitchen | Light and Sweet Jell-O (and Cool Whip) Pie


Wow, the holiday season is finally here! It's also that challenging time of year when some of us are trying to end the year on (not under) the healthy lifestyle wagon, but we also want to enjoy some of those sweet treats that seem to be everywhere. Well, I've got a light and tasty dessert recipe to accommodate both!

As I've shared before, my #MAWM "Ms. G" has always been one to try new and lighter-versions of foods that we love. In comes one of her most famous desserts; Jell-O (Gelatin) Pie. Growing up, it was always in demand. From her daycare students, our church family, and neighbors, this lighter alternative to key lime or rich cheesecake was a hit. This pie delivers a fluffy, citrus-forward experience with just the right amount of sweetness for you to enjoy without any guilt.

How it's Made

Ingredients:
- 2/3 cup boiling water
- 1 Packet (3 Ounces) Sugar-Free Flavored Gelatin (Jell-O)
- Ice cubes
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 Container (8 Ounces) Lite Whipped Cream (Cool Whip)
- Graham Cracker Crumb Pie Crust


Helpful Kitchen Tools:

Instructions: Boil 2/3 cup of water and add a full packet of flavored gelatin mix in a large, heat-safe bowl. Carefully stir the mixture for up 2 minutes or until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, add 1 cup of ice water to cool. Remove any cubes of unmelted ice. Gently and gradually whisk in the whipped topping until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into a pre-made graham cracker pie crust and cover. Refrigerate for approximately 3 hours or until firm.

Recipe Substitutions:
- Low Carb? Go for full-fat whipped cream and swap the graham cracker crust for a nut flour-based crust.
- Not dieting? Go for the original (sugar) gelatin and full-fat whipped cream.

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