Sunday, February 20, 2011

Reader Feedback Q&A : Biggest Struggles

About a week ago, I invited you all to submit some comments in response to last week's poll about biggest struggles in health/weight loss.  Thanks to all who posted, and I want to hold up my end of the bargain by responding as well as I can!  I want to re-emphasize, I'm not a nutritionist or a medical professional, these suggestions are just things I've found while on my own long weight-loss journey.  I'll provide my best advice, and some variety, hopefully, you'll be able to find something that works for you!  Here we go...

Q:  What are some ways to navigate the lack of healthy things I would actually eat on restaurant menus?

This is a great question, and something I've had to learn to reconcile myself with as well.  It's not impossible, but it's tough, and if you're determined to stay away from eating unhealthy food but are forced to eat in restaurants frequently for whatever reason, it makes it more difficult.  First of all, there are things you will have to avoid if you're actually concerned about making healthy choices.  Anything fried is pretty much out.  The unhealthy fat used to fry food items, not to mention the empty carbs in white flour used for breading, make this a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.  Just avoid it.  Period.  Grilled meats are great, the leaner the better, and chicken is best.  Try to stay away from heavy sauces or marinades, at the very least be aware of what's going on it.  If you order a sandwich, I would try to minimize the damage by ordering a side salad or steamed vegetables (these usually come at no extra charge as a substitute) instead of chips or fries.  Salads are great, especially with some grilled lean meat for protein, but be careful, dressings are full of hidden calories and unhealthy fats.  Ask for balsamic vinegar and olive oil, most restaurants will have them.

Q:  There's usually a certain amount of peer pressure involved in eating out with friends, how to I manage that?

It takes a lot of mental toughness, for sure.  This is one of the reasons I kept gaining weight in college, if my friends wanted to get a pizza late at night or go out for food after I had already had dinner, my social side told me I needed to take part or I'd be missing out.  Giving in to these temptations became a norm for me, and that did me in.  I had to learn to tell myself, "you'll feel better about yourself, about your body and about your progress if you just go, have a glass of water and enjoy your friends' company."

Q: How can I teach myself to NOT like certain kinds of food? If I see some candy, a bag of chips, I go for it. Why? Because it's delicious and I don't see its bad side right way. I know it is a terrible way to live/eat, but how can I teach myself to go for the carrots and celery instead of the wings?

It's impossible to explain why we like certain kinds of food, we just do, and for me to think that someday I won't like Italian food (though I haven't eaten it in months), it's just not going to happen.  Here's the thing: you won't someday look at the celery and carrots and forget about the wings.  However, the trick is to flip a 180-degree turn on your instincts.  You really want some wings?  Eat some wings!  But be sensible about it, don't drown them in sauce, and don't eat them again for a while.  Eat foods that are whole and filling and tasty in their own right.  Eventually, I promise, the craving will ease.  A few months ago, if I got the urge to buy a frozen pizza, there's no way I would have been able to hold off, because wasn't in the proper place with my eating.  Now, all I can think about when I pass the DiGiorno case is what it might do to my progress, and I can walk by.  A few tips that have worked for me, but I don't necessarily recommend to everyone; 1) I weigh-in every single day.  This discourages me from making bad choices, because I HATE seeing my weight go up...however, this works for me only because I use it to gauge progress over the long-term.  Do NOT place too much stock in your day-to-day weight...just the trends and the way your body looks is important to understand how much progress you're making...2) I hate spending excess money, so realizing that I can buy a healthy bag of dried black beans which will last me several days for the same price as buying a bag of chips.  That makes my decision a lot easier in the moment of temptation.

Q: I struggle with consistency! I'll be ultra motivated one day, super hyped for my exercise routine, and then the next day I'll eat cheesecake and not do anything physical at all. How do you keep yourself on task?

Consistency is tough for us all, you're not alone!  My suggestion: give yourself a goal for the week, eat well all week, and you can have that piece of cheesecake on the weekend!  Also, schedule your workouts!  It's easy to avoid working out when it's just a hap-hazard thing you'll decide to throw into your day, especially if you're busy and you reach the end of the day and lack the motivation to get to the gym.  That's just unrealistic.  Set a goal, 4 days, 5 days in the week.  Intentionally leave out your busiest days!  That'll give you a better chance to get there.  

Q: I totally self-medicate with food. For example, I've been having a crap-tastic day today and the only thing I wanted was some kind of cake/baked good. I knew that if I had something, it would make everything better (at least for a little while). And I had a small cupcake with dinner, and everything was at peace. This was good, because I only had one, very small cupcake. However, I will totally destroy a package of Oreos if left to my own devices. I just need to build my confidence to be able to deal with problems without resorting to food.

Listen, I understand completely...there's a reason we have a whole section of our cultural diet labeled as "comfort food."  However, having been there, this is the sort of cycle which leads down the wrong path.  I'm susceptible to binging on junk too, that's why I just don't keep it around.  I understand how this all feels, but I have to say, this was me during a dark time for my health.  It wasn't until I started taking pride in feeding my body the right food that I was able to learn how to keep food in its rightful place.  My simple advice: if it's going to be tempting, don't bring it into the house.   Absolutely and positively don't even push it to the back of your shelf, you will know where it is, and when you're tempted, your body's desire will be stronger than your conscience.  I stopped buying peanut butter, because one of my favorite indulgences was to grab a spoon and get a spoonful of PB...long story short, one becomes two and soon I've eaten 50% of my daily fat allowance in three bites!  There's no way I'd drink olive oil, so there's my temptation-free healthy fat which I use on most of my meals.  My wife has started drinking tea at night, to give her something to look forward to...I eat fruit when I go on the prowl...having harmless food around that you learn to look forward to is the best option.  Please comment further if you have any further questions, this is tough!

Q:  I overeat, but instead of eating potato chips, I try to make enormous salads. I think I find a basic satisfaction in putting fuel in my body, but of course I'd prefer pizza to brussel sprouts. I also use food as a reward, i.e., if I'm studying, I want Sour Patch kids, etc. So, I just try to eat a ton of carrots or big fruit salads or something healthy. Other relatively guilt-free snacks include Cheerios and air-popped popcorn.

Not a question, obviously, but this warrants discussion.  To tie this in to the previous question, I think I satisfy my "comfort food" craving with a lot of healthy food, like this poster is suggesting.  I love making a huge salad, rich in vegetables, a little protein and a little fiber.  My afternoon snack is often several servings of vegetables, with a little salt and pepper.  Not your typical snack food, but I promise you, it's just as satisfying, and eventually you'll learn to look forward to that instead of Oreos.  You're right on the money, food can be a reward, and you're right in making healthy choices.  Food is our friend, processed junk is our enemy.  Eating good food is and incredibly rewarding feeling, and so guilt-free.  Enjoy it!

I believe that God put food on this planet for our enjoyment, not just our nourishment.  Try explaining to me how tomatoes, garlic, onions and fresh basil can all go together so incredibly otherwise.  He didn't have to make it tasty, bland food could have nourished us just as well!  However, such a huge percentage of the food our culture eats is man-made, and that's what makes it dangerous.  We've twisted the food consumption culture into a money-making and flavor-craving venture, and we're paying for it...I don't believe we should have to feel guilty for eating anything, it's unfortunate that our food industry has created the entire problem of food guilt, and the reasons behind it.

As always, your questions, comments, agreements, disagreements are welcomed!  This is, and hopefully continues to be a forum for edification of everyone involved, and your contributions make it possible!

- Dan -

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Back On The Losing Edge: February 19th Progress Report

THE STATS: 6’6” (78 inches), 277.0 lbs (Goal: 240 lbs), BMI 32.0, Current month’s weight loss (February 2011): 2.6 lbs, 2011 weight loss: -12.8 lbs, total weight loss: 106.8 lbs.

WEEKLY WEIGHT LOSS  from February 5-February 11: -1.0 lbs

You say you want proof?
Today is a blog first: I am writing and publishing this update while on an exercise bike in Carnegie Mellon University's fitness center (where I work out when I'm stuck at school and not able to go to our next door neighbor YMCA)!  Technology is amazing, and something about putting into practice what I preach as I preach it makes it seem more it's infinitely more productive than surfing the Internet or listening to music while I work out.

Good week: I lost a bit, and generally felt like I was back in the routine a bit after my previous week's indiscretions.   I was held back from making more progress, since I was in crunch time for some big projects having to do with finishing my Masters, which obviously took precedence over heading to the gym in my "free time."  I made it to the gym several times this week, but hopefully I'll be back in the groove from now on.

Food cravings: There were a few, namely last night when driving an hour back home from playing a concert in Wheeling, WV, where I had eaten the salad I brought for dinner at 5:00 PM and was driving past numerous fast food joints at 10:30 PM, feeling like I could eat a horse.  I reminded myself of my impending progress report day weigh-in, and was able to stave off the cravings until I got home and had a banana, my daily dark chocolate and a few almonds.  Not by any means my ideal time to eat, but I had to have something, and that was some minimal damage!  Victory...

Coming later today: my editorial on health/weight loss obstacles, in response to your submissions on my Q&A call earlier this week.  Thanks again for those of you who responded, and I'll look forward to doing my best to help you out!

- Dan - 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New Cookbook, New Recipe!

Good's that time of the week! Time to feed the hungry with something new, healthy and delicious. To my faithful readers, I'm sorry my posts have been a little late, I've been caught up with finishing some graduate school projects which have required my attention (or no degree!) lately...

Get this...
Lucky for me, this week's recipe post has been made easy...I celebrated my birthday about a week ago, and Laurelin got me a new toy, the UltraMetabolism Cookbook!  A quick flip through the book looked very promising, and I'm looking forward to trying a bunch of these recipes, which are all compliant with the UltraMetabolism eating parameters...

About a week ago before a concert, I had a bowl of spicy black bean soup at a local restaurant, and I was immediately hooked...I've been eating beans for a while now, but this was a great, fresh-tasting spin on the fiber-rich carbs which I've been eating.  I found a recipe in this cookbook which looks very similar, and I wanted to share it with you all.



(makes 4 servings)

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp. minced garlic
4 cups cooked black beans
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tsp. minced jalapeño pepper
2 tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. minced oregano
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. fresh minced cilantro
2 tsp. fresh lime juice

Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large Dutch over or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, until softened. Stir in the beans, broth, tomatoes, red pepper, jalapeño pepper, molasses, oregano, cumin, coriander, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.

Enjoy this recipe! I'll look forward to sharing some more of these as I try them...

Thanks for reading!

- Dan -

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Results Are In...I Need Your Feedback!

Thanks to all 36 of you who participated in this week's poll!  Glad to get you all involved, and now I want to go even further in interacting with you on these poll results.

The VERDICT:  Based on the poll votes, the top 3 obstacles preventing us from becoming more healthy and/or losing weight are...drumroll, please!

#1 - Eating "trouble" foods (52%)
Honestly, no surprise there, our food industry promotes all the wrong products to us, and it's no wonder we all fall for the junk every so often.  Some more often than others, I've been there!  Some of this stems from food cravings caused by chemicals in processed food which is everywhere around us, some due to self-control issues....the are a number of ways to get around this, we shall discuss this in depth.

#2 - Finding motivation to exercise (41%)
Yes, this is tough, especially if working out isn't a habit, or hasn't ever been a habit.  It's also very daunting if you're quite out of shape or overweight, it seems like a big obstacle to overcome.  I've been there too, and it can be overcome, I've got some great suggestions, stay tuned, I want to hear from you all first.

#3 - Overeating (33%)
I also would have this in my personal top three...I've been there, and it's so easy to get there.  I've mentioned before, I love food, and if it's there, chances are I'll eat it...soon enough, you feel overstuffed, and all you've eaten is junk.  SO, there are steps to take to get away from this too.  There are definitely reasons for this tendency, and I'll get into that.


What I need from YOU! - I really want to get the blog readers interacting here...especially if you voted, but even if you didn't, leave a comment on this post, describing your struggles...leave the comment anonymously, or if you feel like leaving your name, that's fine too.  All in the name of honesty, and getting issues out there and discussed.  I'd love to be able to address comments individually, so PLEASE leave some feedback here about how you may be struggling or have struggled.  Any comment, however short or lengthy, will be beneficial!  Let's start the discussion!

Looking forward to hearing from you all!

- Dan -

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Let Your Exceptions Be Exceptions: Progress Update

THE STATS: 6’6” (78 inches), 278.0 lbs (Goal: 240 lbs), BMI 32.1, Current month’s weight loss (February 2011): 1.6 lbs, 2011 weight loss: -11.8 lbs, total weight loss: 105.8 lbs.

WEEKLY WEIGHT LOSS  from February 5-February 11: -0.0 lbs

The second week of February couldn't have been more different from the first, and I'm writing this update, not because it's fun, but because honesty makes what I'm writing important and real.  It's not like commercials on TV, where you see just the great success stories and guarantees of weight loss, this is real life---there are ups and downs, and the point is to learn from mistakes.  That's how I got this far in the first place, by understanding, mostly, what NOT to do.  

One of Fat Head's Saloon's gigantic salads
Laurelin and I had planned for a while that we were going to take a day-long exception to enjoy a Super Bowl party with a bunch of friends, as our current city's football team, the Steelers, happened to be in the big game!  Well, as it turned out, I went out the night before with a couple of friends, had a beer, a Jalapeno-Cheddar Salad, and about a dozen fries off a friend's plate.  

The next day, there was plenty of delicious food to be had at the party, and I didn't hold back.  While I didn't go absolutely nuts, I did indulge in everything, not worrying about avoiding anything on the food table.  I had some meatballs, spinach artichoke dip, hummus, baked pasta with sauce and cheese, chili, a personal favorite which I brought - Barefoot Contessa's Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread, among other dips and dishes.

The damage?  My Saturday morning weigh-in was at 277.4 lbs.  My Monday morning weigh-in after 24 hours of reasonable indulgence?  284.6.  My body held in 7.2 lbs of (mostly water) weight from a 24 hour period of eating!  It took me until today, almost a full week, to get back to my last week's weight.  Now, I understand it's only temporary, but any sort of drastic spike like that should provide me with something to learn!

Forgive the Chandler Bing-esque answering my own questions to make a point, but here it goes.  Do I regret what I ate last weekend?  No, it was a great time with good food and good people, and I can make exceptions for those events.  Do I understand the profound impact that eating foods like those on a regular basis could have on your body, as delicious as they are?  Absolutely.  

Would it be smart to make such exceptions (like, "I feel like getting a pizza" or "let's go get some beers and food") without a legitimate cause?  Only if I feel like losing a week's worth of momentum.  My diet right now is 100% satisfying, and I'm getting every nutrient I need, without the added junk.  

So let your "yes" be "yes," your "no" be "no," and let your exceptions truly be exceptions.  Don't throw off your momentum for a momentary craving, they'll pass, but the momentum you lose if you give in won't be nearly as easy to get back.  

- Dan -

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Twitter Account!

Follow 3XL And Back on Twitter,


I'll post quick updates and thoughts when I don't have time to post on the blog...

New post coming later today!  Read about my post-Super Bowl weekend difficulties, and how I'm struggling through it, not all progress is exponential, there are ups and downs....

- Dan -

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recipe Wednesday: Veggie-Heavy Curry Skillet with Rice

One of my favorite lunch recipes is just a mix of a bunch of delicious vegetables, a little protein, some beans, and of course, spices!  This is a very versatile recipe, you can add as much or as little kick to it as you like, and it's pretty quick to throw together.  I love this one because I can use my precooked and refrigerated ingredients (rice/quinoa, ground turkey and beans) and throw some frozen veggies in, very easy!


(Recipe serves two)

1 large onion, slices in thin wedges
1 large green pepper, sliced into strips
1 cup mixed frozen vegetables of your choice (corn, peas, green beans, carrots)
1 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
1 cup browned ground turkey (equivalent to 1/2 pound uncooked)
1 cup beans of your choice (garbanzo, black, black-eyed, kidney)
1 cup (cooked) brown rice or quinoa
Season to taste with: garlic or ground granulated garlic, curry powder, salt, pepper and chili powder.

1) Cut up the onion, green pepper, and throw them in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil.

2) As the onion and green pepper start to soften, add some spice to cook into the mix.  Add the frozen vegetables.

3) When the vegetables are all soft and thawed, add the beans and ground turkey, and season again, mixing all the ingredients together.  I like spicy food, so I like to add a mixture of hot chili sauce (Sriracha) diluted with water, really gives it a nice kick!

Serve over or on the side of a portion of quinoa or brown rice, and drizzle a little olive oil on top.


- Dan -

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tasty and Healthy Bread Recipes, Anyone?

If any of you are like me, a warm, hearty slice of bread is a great treat, and if you can find a healthy recipe, you can get some nutrition out of it as well!

3XL And Back reader Emily has devoted some of her time over the last few years to a project, providing healthy bread recipes as well as vegan dishes, at her blog site, which you can find at:

While I'm in a gluten-free stage of the UltraMetabolism program right now, and bread is off-limits for the time being, a healthy slice of bread with the whole ingredients that Emily uses can be a great way to get healthy grains in your system.  She even has several recipes which incorporate my personal favorite grains, quinoa and brown rice!

Check it out!  Thanks Emily!

- Dan -

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weekly Quiz/Poll Results and This Week's Poll Introduction

The VERDICT: Good news!  For the second straight week, the vast majority of the voters nailed it!  Almost 75% of the 27 voters this week correctly answered that the second and third options, "Counting Calories" and "Eliminating fat to lose body fat" are indeed the least effective ways of the four options in the poll, in health-checking your diet!  Good work!

The FACTS:  While there are a lot of diets, methods, opinions out there, and it's impossible to list them all and provide commentary on them one-by-one, I'll do my best to provide answers for the ones in the poll.

1) Tracking Nutrient Balance - Absolutely, this is effective.  Monitoring ratio of carbohydrates, fat, and protein is very helpful in determining if your diet is out of balance.  A good ratio to follow is a 40%-30%-30% ratio of carbs-fat-protein.  Remember, this is still useless if you're eating bad fat and bad carbs, the nutrients are a non-factor in that case, rendering the entire method useless.  If you're an iPod or iPhone user, or have frequent access to a computer (of course you do, how else would you be reading this blog?), there's an application called "Lose It" (web address: which allows you to log all the food you eat and it automatically tracks nutrient summaries for you.

2) Counting Calories - While it's good to be aware of approximately how many calories you're consuming in a day to avoid overshooting or not reaching your daily requirements, the simple number of calories you eat in a day will not alone be able to tell you how healthy you're eating.  Why?  To quote Dr. Mark Hyman, "not all calories are created equal."  In other words, since a calorie is a measurement of energy in food, it does not provide you with all the information to determine whether or not it is a calorie packed with healthy nutrients or whether it's a sugar calorie which will be absorbed directly into your blood stream.  Is eating 2000 calories of candy equivalent to eating 2000 calories of lean chicken meat or vegetables?  Obviously not.  This is the inherent problem with using calorie counting as your only source of checks and balances.  

3) Eliminating fat (from your diet) to lose body fat) - Not helpful.  Why?  You could say "not all fat is created equal."  There is good fat and bad fat, and if you eliminate the good fat from your diet, you'll be missing out on some essential metabolism-boosting nutrients your body desperately needs.  Where should your fat come from?  Nuts, flax seed, healthy oils such as almond, olive and coconut, even a little occasional dark chocolate.  What should you avoid?  Trans fats (essentially, processed fats), hydrogenated oils, butter, basically anything you find in processed food, pastries, and junk food.

4) Monitoring Food Ingredients - Yes!  Learn to read food labels!  It will be a great change in the way you shop for food, as you'll become aware of just how much goes into what you see in the grocery store.  You'll be appalled at most...even a seemingly harmless box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese will have you scrambling for the fresh produce section, if you care about what goes into your body!  In general, look for products with the least amount of ingredients on the label, but be sure to check those as well.  The quality of your life depends on what you put into it, and that all starts with the food you decide to stock at home.

NEW POLL:  This week, I'm going to have an actual poll, as opposed to a "quiz," which is what I've really been posting until this point!  This week's topic: What is the biggest area of difficulty in your personal health life?  Which of the following is the hardest obstacle for you, preventing you from being healthier or losing weight?  I'll do a post this weekend based on the results from the quiz this week, to try to help you all out any way I can!

As always, thanks for reading!

- Dan -

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pittsburgh Skyline On A Cold February Night

This, admittedly, has nothing to do with weight loss, other than we were taking our UltraMetabolism-suggested after dinner walk to this location, but Laurelin and I took a photography excursion tonight, and this was our best effort...hope you enjoy!

Weekly Progress Update: January 28-February 4

THE STATS: 6’6” (78 inches), 278.0 lbs (Goal: 240 lbs), BMI 32.1, Current month’s weight loss (February 2011): 1.6 lbs, 2011 weight loss: 11.6 lbs, total weight loss: 105.8 lbs.

WEEKLY WEIGHT LOSS  from January 28-February 4: 1.6 lbs

The first week of February has been a good one!  I feel like I'm really gaining positive momentum both with my food intake and with my exercise routine.  I'm consistently dropping several ounces per day, often up to a half-pound, and I'm getting back into familiar territory, where I can almost predict where my weight will be from day to day.

The last time I was on this type of roll was in the summer of 2009, when for 10-12 weeks, I could predict that I would drop a pound per day for three days in a row, hold steady for two days, increase in weight a half or a whole pound, then drop several pounds the next day.  This kind of routine and predictability is what I thrive on, and it's nice to be back in that position!  

I've been eating well, the only exception in the past week was a frozen yogurt outing with Laurelin where I'm guessing I consumed probably 300 calories of non-fat yogurt, which isn't terrible, but an exception nonetheless, and I won't do that again for a while.  I was able to get to the gym 4-5 times in the past week, the past two of which I spent over an hour on the exercise bike, along with a little weight work.

Here's a little something I've found to be helpful in starting out my day the right way: they say "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper," meaning eat your biggest meal at breakfast, second-largest at lunch, and your lightest meal at dinner.  Well, it's true.  At least it has been for me, and I think it's worth a try for anyone who hasn't given it a shot.  It helps me avoid massive food cravings, as a feel satisfied throughout the day, especially with my small mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.  Eating my lightest meal at night, usually a nice, big yet veggie-heavy salad, helps me avoid carrying too much food waste in my body overnight, without getting too graphic and into the TMI danger-zone!

- Dan -

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recipe Wednesday: Fresh Southwest Salad

THE STATS: 6’6” (72 inches), 278.4 lbs (Goal: 240 lbs), BMI 32.2, Current month’s weight loss (February 2011): 1.2 lbs, 2011 weight loss: 11.2 lbs, total weight loss: 105.4 lbs.

Responding to requests from my readers, I'm going to serve up the inaugural Recipe Wednesday post: my evening meal staple, a home-concoction that Laurelin and I have discovered which I'll call the Fresh Southwest Salad.  This is a great quick one to pack up and take with you to school or work, and I'll get into some tips for that at the end of the post.  And I promise, it'll satisfy and fill you up!


(Recipe serves one)

1 large handful of fresh lettuce (I prefer romaine) or fresh leaf spinach
1/2 cup cooked black beans*
1/2 cup thawed frozen corn
1 large Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup shredded deli turkey breast
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon flaxseed

Dijon-Balsamic Dressing: equal parts Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and Dijon Mustard

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a large salad bowl, and if you're taking it with you on the go, pack it into a large tupperware.  You can make several servings of the dressing at once for convenience, pack as much as you'll be putting on your salad in a small container to take with you, and refrigerate the rest.  Adding the dressing just before you eat the salad instead of while mixing the rest of the ingredients helps keep the salad from getting soggy.

* - We use dry black beans which we soak overnight and cook in bulk.  Try to avoid using canned black beans, as there is added sodium in the "juice" from the can.  If you have no choice but to use canned beans, make sure you drain the beans completely, and rinse them to remove as much excess salt as possible.

That's it!  Max prep time: 10 mins.  It's an incredible, fresh-tasting mix of ingredients, and I'm sure you'll enjoy!

As always, questions, comments, and advice are welcomed!

- Dan -

EDIT: Thanks to reader Matt-O for suggesting something I forgot to include...salsa is a great alternative to the Dijon-Balsamic dressing if you're looking for a more Mexican flavor!  Try it once with the Dijon dressing, however, you'll love it.