On a roll!

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I first came across foam rolling on Pinterest when I was looking for a way to relieve my sore muscles. Once a little pain sets in, it can put a HUGE damper on motivation, and it’s easy to forego workouts altogether. In one respect, soreness means you’re doing something right. Too much, however, could indicate dehydration or the need for a good old-fashioned stretch.

Recently, a friend of mine posted a photo of her foam roller and said that it was one of her greatest investments. After that, rollers kept popping up everywhere – Instagram, Facebook, you name it! To be honest, that first one only caught my eye because it was bright pink, but after a little research, I knew I had to have one.

What is foam rolling, anyway?

Foam rolling is a soft massaging therapy that you can do on your own with a roller made of – you guessed it – foam! It’s also known as self-myofascial release and is a hell of a lot cheaper to do at home.

The “real” myofascial release that you would go to a licensed therapist for is a pretty expensive treatment that involves applying pressure to your connective tissue to reduce pain and increase motion. To get the best results, a series of 4 sessions are recommended. For a full treatment, including info session and diagnosis, you could pay upwards of $600. Yikes!

GRID Foam Roller

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The roller you choose makes all the difference. It may be painful to roll at first, but once you form a routine, you’ll start to experience great results. Some of the benefits include better sleep (kiss those restless legs goodbye!), increased flexibility, and reduced muscle pain. My recommendation is the GRID foam roller by TriggerPoint. For just $39.99 (plus shipping), you’ll be well on your way to feeling better. Compare that to what you’d pay for just one session at a wellness center!

The GRID is designed to replicate an actual massage, and as you roll, you can feel the different pressure points rubbing against all of your tight muscles. Unlike most rollers that have a foam core, this one has a hollow core that is wrapped in a thin layer of foam, making it firmer with the ability to withstand up to 500 pounds of static weight. At just over a foot long and less than six inches wide, you can literally take your GRID foam roller anywhere! And the best part? The product is backed by a 30-day guarantee and one-year warranty, so roll your heart out!

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As part of my cooldown after each workout, I roll my back, glutes, hamstrings, I.T. band, hip-flexors, and calves, for about 30 seconds on each body part. It feels so good. Plus, I’ve never slept better! Around nighttime, I was getting aches and odd sensations in my legs that would wake me up at odd hours, especially after a tough workout. Since I started rolling with the GRID, I haven’t had any trouble sleeping through the night. I’m seriously amazed.

Bottom Line

This is a must-have purchase for everyone who works out. If I could only choose one recovery tool, this would be it. The only decision you need to make is which of the five fun colors you want!

Check out TriggerPoint’s website for more information and to view the entire product line, including massage balls, DVDs, guidebooks, and more!

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by TriggerPoint. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Diary of a Snacker successful. All opinions are my own.

I know you know, but I have to say it anyway…Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise or fitness program (yes, even foam rolling!). Use this roller and all other fitness tools at your own risk.

In an instant!

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Birthday present from my mom!

Last year I kept hearing about the Instant Pot and how amazing it was. “Cook pulled pork in record time!” “Hottest kitchen item around!” “You need to buy this NOW!” I did a little research and was, at first, a bit turned off by the hefty price tag. Then I started to see all of the amazing foods that could be cooked in the pressure cooker, and all of the time saved by using it, and knew I had to have it.

When my mom surprised me with the Instant Pot for my birthday, I was ecstatic. Seriously an amazing gift for a cook (or want to be cook)! I used it that day. And I’ve used it every week since.

It’s taken me a while to actually write up a review because I wanted to make sure I covered everything. I had a lot of questions in the beginning and if you’re on the fence about the purchase, I’m sure you have a ton too.

Below you’ll find some of the basics.

Pronunciation

Instant Pot, not Instapot – for some reason I keep seeing that one floating out there. Two words – okay?

Who is it for?

This product is good for people with 9-5 jobs, those who want to meal prep but just don’t have the time, people who hate cooking, people who love cooking, people who love gadgets. On second thought, this product is good for people.

Is it worth the money?

I get this ALL the time. If you look at the Instant Pot as just a cooking tool, it seems hella expensive. Retail price for the 6 qt 7-in-1 (IP-DUO60) is $99.99, albeit a step down from last year’s going rate of $129.99.

But, in essence, you’re not just buying a cooking tool. You’re getting a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, and warmer complete with a sauté/browning feature, neatly packaged into one item. That’s big. As much as I love my Crock-Pot, I haven’t used it once since getting the Instant Pot.

Instead of wondering if it’s worth the money, think about how much your time is worth. If this device can cut cook time by 50 or even 75 percent, would it help you out? Would you be more inclined to cook?

What does it do?

Literally, everything described above. It cooks good meals in record time – think 7 minutes for easy-peel hard boiled eggs, 35-minute shredded chicken, 15-minute chili. If you’ve made your own bone broth, you know it can take 24-48 hours on the stove top and 8+ hours in the slow cooker. With the Instant Pot, you can have it in two.

What are all those buttons?

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Ha. There are a lot of controls and that can be intimidating. You typically won’t use all of them. On any given day I tend to use the bottom 8 and the – + buttons because they really cover everything. The Soup, Rice, etc. just take the guesswork out of manual programming.

  • High Pressure – most meals are cooked on this setting
  • Manual – I make most of my dishes in this setting because I get to control the time (and have found that some recipes require more or less than recommended)
  • Timer – changes the input so you can adjust the time for manual cooking
  • Less & More – adjust the time needed for a particular dish
  • Keep Warm/Cancel – stops the cooking and keeps your dish warm until you’re ready/shuts off the Instant Pot entirely
  • Sauté – a good feature to brown meat before adding the rest of the ingredients to the pot
  • The other buttons are not used as frequently, but I would like to include a video of how and when to use them.

How much liquid do you need?

Rule of thumb is 1-2 cups of liquid for every recipe. So, if you are cooking two chicken breasts, 1 cup of chicken broth (or water) would be sufficient. Add more if you want extra juice. The nice thing about the Instant Pot is that liquid under pressure does not evaporate – if you start out with 1 cup, you’ll end up with 1 cup.

Is it safe?

This isn’t your grandmother’s pressure cooker. You know, the one that used rattle, whistle, and shake like it was going to explode? Now, that was scary.

There are 10 proven safety mechanisms including lid close detection (unit will beep and not start until the lid is properly fastened and locked) and high-temperature warning (pressure will not build up in the pot if there is not enough liquid or moisture).

After reading through your user manual and seeing how it works, you should feel completely comfortable using it.

Note: It is important to only use/buy items and accessories that are manufactured and tested by Instant Pot. In particular, the sealing rings have been tested and passed UL, FDA, and LFGB safety tests. The same cannot be said about 3rd party companies/products.

Does it really cook that fast?

Yes. And maybe not. I don’t want you to get discouraged here, but I have to be honest. Many of the recipes don’t account for the time it takes to pressurize the chamber. So, while hard boiled eggs only take 7 minutes to cook, there is an extra 10-15 minutes of pressure time that must be factored in.

But the unit is amazing and will cook a lot of your slow cooker favorites (think pulled pork) in record time.

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So easy to peel – I wanted to cry tears of joy!

How do you clean it?

It’s easy to clean out the Instant Pot. Just remove the stainless steel cooking pot, scrub with hot soapy water and dry. Clean the lid with a damp cloth or sponge, then remove the inner flexible sealing ring and clean in hot soapy water. The cooking pot and sealing ring can also be placed in the dishwasher. I always wipe down the surface of the unit when done in case there are any spills.

Note: After the first use the bottom of my pot was stained. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but couldn’t get it back to its original state. This has not affected cooking in any way but is worth mentioning in case you experience something similar. If this really bugs you, you can purchase a new pot for around $34 on Amazon.

What items and accessories are available?

There are a number of different accessories made especially for the Instant Pot, including sealing rings, cookbooks, tempered glass lids, silicone safety mitts, etc.

Check out Amazon for a full listing and to purchase.

Why I like it

The Instant Pot is very helpful to me when I’m meal prepping on the weekends and if – no, when – I forget to take the meat out of the freezer before I leave for work.

I’ve never been able to cook anything so fast, so good, and so tender. The meat falls off the bone and shreds easily, meals are more flavorful, and there are so many fun recipes online or you can easily adapt your own. Check Pinterest for ideas. Some of my favorites include Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole and Crack Chicken by Adventures of a Nurse.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Thanks to the Instant Pot’s growing popularity, there are now several cookbooks specifically for pressure-cooking. My favorite it is Paleo Cooking with Your Instant Pot by Jennifer Robins, one of my favorite girl bosses. Her recipes are easy to follow and taste great.

Besides the normal slow cooker favorites, you can make all sorts of dishes including soup, bread, cheesecake, yogurt, and rice pudding. It’s really a lot of fun!

Bottom Line

This is one of the best investments you can make – and THE best investment for your kitchen. The Instant Pot is a HUGE time saver. That fact, alone, should have you running to Amazon (figuratively, or course) and buying one for you and a friend. If you use it regularly, and you will, it will quickly pay for itself. If you still have hesitations and are uneasy about the price, Amazon has two big sales where you may be able to snag one for a lower price – Prime Day and Black Friday. Be on the lookout!

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Chili in the making!

 

Please Note: This post is not sponsored by Instant Pot and I am not affiliated with the company in any way. I also do not receive any compensation from the Amazon links included above. All opinions are my own.  

Keep on blazin’ on

What is the Fitbit Blaze? A smart watch that, in addition to telling time, allows you to track your steps, calories burned, heart rate, and log daily exercise, among other things.
Who is it for? Anyone who wants to track daily activity, up their fitness game, add challenges, and look stylish while doing so.

Price. Starts out at $199.95, but can be caught on sale.

Why I like it

Stylish. The watch has received criticism for its 80s-like retro feel. (As if that were a bad thing!) I prefer the Fitbit’s rectangular shape over a circular watch face. But really, it’s just about personal preference.

Comfortable. I’ll admit that when I first saw the watch in person, I wasn’t sure I would be able to sleep with it. It’s pretty large in comparison to my small wrist. BUT, like (un-itchy) clothing, once you have it on, you don’t really feel it anymore. The band is soft and flexible and there are plenty of holes to find the right fit. I don’t even notice it while sleeping.

Awesome App. The app is very user friendly and automatically syncs to the watch to provide you with updated stats upon launch. You can see your steps, miles traveled, calories burned, time exercised, sleep quality, and so much more. You can even look at trends for the week or month. It also shows you how much battery is left and when you need a recharge. It’s really awesome and gets an A++ from me.

Move Reminders. If you have a desk job, you’ll appreciate the hourly reminders to get up and move. Small movements throughout the day add up – if you take 250 steps each hour while at work, you will have taken 2,000 by the time you quit for the night. Take a walk to refill your water, grab a cup of tea, or, like I prefer, walk to the farthest bathroom and back.

Sleep. Easily track your sleep quality and habits, and awake to a silent alarm each morning. I wasn’t sure that the slight vibrations would wake me up. They do. The problem is hitting snooze!

Customizable. There are so many fun ways to switch up your style. Fitbit sells a variety of interchangeable bands, but some cost upwards of $75. Check eBay for many bands under $5. You can also change the way the clock displays – there are 9 digital and analog styles to choose from.

Battery Life. The battery lasts about 4 days, which is fantastic (and a lot longer than other smart watches). You also get a pretty long warning before the system shuts down. Mine blinked red for over 8 hours and I was able to plug it in before it flat lined (not ideal, but it happens).

Why some people don’t

Display. The Blaze has been criticized for NOT having an Always On display. I can tell you that I’m not a fan of always on for two reasons – it drains the battery faster and it is kind of annoying. With the Blaze, you click the left button to turn on the screen and it stays on for a few seconds – long enough to check the time, the date, and your stats. You can also raise your wrist (as if to check the time) and the display will appear. If that’s a total deal breaker, you might want to look into other smart watches.

It’s not waterproof. I’ve had other activity trackers that you can shower and swim with. It would make it more convenient, but it’s not a must for me. I just remove it with the rest of my jewelry before I hop in the shower and put it back on when I’m done. No big deal.

Charging. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the method of charging. You have to pop the device out of the band / unit and put it into the charging “dock.” I would much prefer wireless charging, or another method that doesn’t require disassembling the unit. But it does only take about 2 hours to get a full charge that lasts 4 days – I definitely can’t complain about that.

These future upgrades would be totally awesome

Notifications. You can get multiple notifications – text, email, calendar appointments, etc. sent straight to your Blaze. I wish you could respond to them with a touch of a finger, but you can’t. While the watch is smart, it’s a smart FITNESS watch, with fitness being the top priority. Future models could include the ability to respond and I’m sure the ratings would be off the charts.

FitStar. The watch comes with a built-in module called FitStar, which helps you to get fit anywhere through body weight workouts. You can do a warm-up, 7-minute workout, or 10-minute abs. The problem? If you don’t use the application, you can’t remove it. Is it annoying? Not to me, but I’ve seen a few complaints about it. Future models could suppress this feature.

Camera. Typical smart watches include the ability to point the camera with the phone and snap a picture from the watch. What an awesome feature this would be on the Blaze. The technology to make a shutter button is out there – think Bluetooth selfie sticks!

The icing on the cake (AKA why this is my must-have fitness gadget)

Heart Rate

  • I started tracking my stress levels and heart rate a few months ago to see if they were migraine triggers. I know that my resting heart rate is between 68 and 72, so when I’m feeling stressed or upset, I can check the watch and see if there is any elevation. Of course there usually is. I know that when my heart rate is elevated I need to practice some relaxation techniques to bring it down.
  • I can also track my heart rate during exercise to see what my average and max heart rates are and when I’m in the fat burning zone. This is also really helpful if you are looking to lose weight.

Calories Burned

  • I had another fitness tracker that wasn’t so great at the calorie tracking. I was getting so discouraged because my morning cardio workouts were only registering as 33 calories burned. I felt like I was just wasting my time. With the Blaze, I can see that I’m burning over 200 calories for every 30 minutes of exercise. That really motivates me to keep it up!

Smart Features

  • This is not just your typical fitness tracker. You can see your texts and calls, and control your music with the tap of your finger. This comes in handy at work when I need to pause my music or audiobook to take a call or if someone stops by my desk – it’s faster than pausing through the phone.

Badges

  • You can earn different badges for exercise milestones and then share them on Facebook or Twitter. When I was in Colorado in early December and we hiked up a gigantic mountain, I got a Stadium badge for climbing 150 floors in a day! I’ll probably never get close to that again, but it was a pretty awesome achievement.

 

Bottom Line: This is, hands-down, the best investment you could make for your personal health. Why? Because you will either see your fitness efforts paying off, which will push you to keep going OR you will realize how inactive you really are during the day and form better habits. I would totally recommend this to a friend.