"This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).
It really is the little things in life that make me happy! So, today for "Sweet Nothings" I want to share some of the fun things that have been making me smile lately!
Okay, this is for all you 'Quest Bar lovers' out there... they have a new flavor!! YEP! That's right, Quest Bars now come in a fun new flavor that is sure to tickle your taste buds and transport you back to a cozy campfire, complete with flip flops, a sweatshirt, and lots of laughs! S'mores! I was SO pumped to try this out... and let me tell you, it definitely did NOT disappoint! This bar has 20 grams of protein, only 1 gram of sugar and 180 calories! They're gluten free and have 13 grams of fiber. So hit up your local GNC asap and load up on this new treat! It's def. my Fave Flav. :)
Don't you just LOVE spending time with your friends?! I sure do! And what could be better than FUN friends? How about Fun, HEALTHY friends! They sure are motivating! I recently transferred schools (my old college didn't have the degree I wanted) and this meant leaving old friends behind and meeting new ones. Fortunately, I was able to get connected with these lovely ladies from my new school!
They're Christian girls (just like me) and they all love healthy eats (also, just like me.) I spent the weekend with them and we made "Fun Salads" for dinner. Great greens, fresh fruits, savory seeds, nutritious nuts, creamy cheeses...YUM! Our culinary creations ended with tasty banana oatmeal muffins for breakfast the next morning! I am so thankful for the opportunity to enjoy both happy healthy foods and happy healthy friends... simultaneously!
Don't you just love colorful foods? Our salad bar also included creamy avocado chunks, bright red cherry tomatoes (i.e. natures candy!), sweet pomegranate seeds, plump raisins, goat cheese, salty sunflower seeds, crunchy cucumbers, and more! Who says you can only get a good salad in the summer??
I LOVE coffee! I know that it can be really unhealthy...but it can also be an indulgent treat that's not actually that bad for you! I prefer my coffee with just a splash of almond milk (I skip the sugar.) Start with a cup o' joe, add some special friends, and top it off with a healthy treat (like a S'mores Quest Bar). That's a combo that always makes me smile!
How about you? What makes you smile these days?!
I LOVE almonds!! They're salty, satisfying and good for your heart! Almonds are packed with nutritious vitamins and minerals. A 1/4 cup serving of almonds contains roughly 50% of your daily biotin needs, 40% of your vitamin E, and about one-fourth of your manganese and copper needs! It contains other important nutrients, as well, like magnesium, vitamin B2 and phosphorous. Almonds help reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, AND reduce the risk of diabetes. Added bonus? Almonds actually help prevent weight gain and even promote weight loss because they're packed with fiber and healthy fats... filling and satiating!
So, now that you know just a few of the benefits of almonds, I want to share with you some of the different ways that I enjoy them!
One way to enjoy almonds is to eat them straight up out of the palm of your hand. Sure, it may not be the most creative method, but a handful of almonds makes the perfect on-the-go snack. They're salty, crunchy, delicious (and they don't melt in your hands!) Another one of my favorite ways to get my fill is with almond butter!! It's so creamy and smooth... or you can have it crunchy! I love Barney Butter. They make some of the best almond butter out there! I was sent some almond butter by the company and I was able to try some of their delightful flavors. I suggest that you try Cocoa+ Coconut, Vanilla+ Expresso, Honey+ Flax, and Raw+ Chia! Try them on toast, on pretzels, apple slices or a banana. Barney Butters are the best almond butters out there!
So, while this nifty little product doesn't technically contain many almonds, 'almond extract' is a great way to add almond-y flavor to any of your favorite treats. I love 'splashing a splash' of this elixir in my AM oat bran or on my plain Greek yogurt! Another almond treat I couldn't go a day without? ALMOND MILK!!! I drink this daily! I stir it into my mid-morning coffee or eat it with Rice Chex for a gluten-free, vegan breakfast!!
Everyone knows that I love chocolate and it is a rare day that I don't enjoy at least a small piece of this magical sweet! Everyone also knows that Godiva makes some of the best chocolate out there! Their 72% Dark Chocolate Almond bar combines rick dark chocolate with crunchy almonds for the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. If you can't find yourself a chocolate almond bar (from Godiva or any other quality chocolatier), try grabbing a couple squares of dark chocolate and pairing them with a handful of salty almonds! This salty-and-sweet combo is seriously satisfying!
How about you? Are you 'nuts' about almonds like I am? What's your favorite way to enjoy them?
Eating healthy is HARD work. Sure, a quick cleanse or detox diet may motivate you for a week or so, but as soon as the weight loss slows down or the food options get boring... you get sick of it! It's easy to throw in the towel and call it quits. And THAT, my friends, is why we should really pursue and maintain a healthy, balanced LIFESTYLE. You know it's become 'a lifestyle' when you don't have to think about HOW TO eat well, you just do it. Ordering a side salad instead of fries? Yep. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Of course. Parking far from the door instead of right near it? Definitely! Starting the day with a balanced breakfast? Wouldn't have it any other way!Admit it, even the most dedicated health enthusiast experiences those mornings where motivation wanes. Suddenly the idea of staying in bed and skipping that AM workout seems very tempting. For me, I believe that the hardest time to maintain a healthy lifestyle is in the dead of winter. I'm always cold. And it gets dark so quickly! Somehow a cozy night-in seems far more enjoyable than hitting up the gym. My 'love of walking' often melts away as the temperatures drop lower and lower.Although it's a bit more difficult to follow a healthy lifestyle in the middle of winter, it's still very possible!! Here are my top 5 tips for maintaining good health when you're cold, tired and tempted to let your good habits slide:
- Eat a warm, cozy breakfast. Breakfast is essential in my book. I start my day with breakfast all year long, but the type of breakfast I eat seems to change seasonally. In the summer, smoothies are beyond refreshing and a delicious way to cool down and wake up. Fall is the perfect time for ANYTHING pumpkin, from pumpkin chia seed pudding to a fresh pumpkin chocolate chip muffin... but nothing says winter like a warm delicious breakfast! Scrambled eggs with a delicious piece of g.free toast and a dab of real butter? A warm bowl of piping hot oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar and a dollop of almond butter. YUM! Be sure to start your day with a healthy hot brekkie and you'll be making nourishing choices all day long!
- Keep exercising. My absolute favorite exercise is walking! I love walking because it's relaxing and therapeutic! It clears my head and helps me to feel my best! Nothing beats a fun walk with friends on a warm summer night, or a crisp morning walk with a mug of tea as the leaves change colors and fall approaches, or even getting bundled up to go outside as the snow lightly falls and winter begins, but when it's 0 degrees out- no matter how many layers I put on, walking outside is a NO GO. My advice? Hop on the treadmill or pop in a workout DVD. There are so many DVD's and workout channels out there... this way, you don't even have to drive over to the gym!!
- Drink tea or coffee. It can be so tempting to sip hot cocoa with marshmallows, peppermint lattes from Starbucks or anything hot and sweet... but this winter, try filling up on nourishing drinks like herbal tea... Try having a hot cup of chamomile tea with a splash of milk and a teaspoon of honey. I LOVE a fresh cup of joe with just a splash of almond milk and a dash of cinnamon. I skip the sugar in my coffee and instead enjoy the robust quality of a good brew. Tea and coffee are naturally filled with antioxidants and can warm you up and make you smile when consumed in moderation (I always try to limit my caffeine and sugar.)
- Eat well. Don't think of 'comfort foods' as the high fat, high calorie way to stuff yourself and put you to sleep. Think 'comfort' as in healthy, nourishing fuel for your body. Sure, there may not be tons of fresh fruits and veggies available at the local fruit stand, but that doesn't mean you can't eat fresh! From extra large bags of frozen mango to ripe round oranges imported from Florida, don't think you can't enjoy those sweet, satisfying sources of vitamins and nutrients! Enjoy root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips and ginger. From superfood powders to high quality protein powders, it's totally possible to eat well during the winter! Check out this website for a list of delicious recipes!
Eating healthy doesn't have to be hard. What is your favorite way to stay healthy and fit in the dead of winter?
The definition of yogurt: "a fermented slightly acid often flavored semisolid food made of milk and milk solids to which cultures of two bacteria have been added" Well, if THAT doesn't make you want to want to enjoy a nice big bowl of the white stuff, hopefully today's post will do the trick!!
I'm not a HUGE yogurt person, but now that I'm back home my mum is determined to change that! She eats plain Greek yogurt every single day and she's convinced that it's one of the best foods ever. The other day I came home from church really hungry. No, 'hungry' is putting it lightly! I was famished! I rarely feel as intensely ravenous as I did at this moment. I realized that my normal petite-sized lunch was NOT going to cut it today, so in addition to my lunch I decided to try some plain greek yogurt. I topped it with cinnamon and some fresh pineapple, frozen mango, grapes and banana slices. It was delicious!! The creamy, tart yogurt was loaded with protein and the fresh fruit was naturally sweet! I had created the perfect 'side' to my very predictable lunch!!
One thing I LOVE about greek yogurt is just how filling it is! In one of my favorite health books, "French Woman Don't Get Fat" Mireille Guiliano claims that yogurt is a "vital secret of hunger management." She explains how French woman use yogurt as a way to keep slim. Greek yogurt is strained thicker than regular yogurt, resulting in a higher quality, thicker yogurt which naturally has more protein than regular yogurt.
Studies have actually proven that yogurt is beneficial for weight loss. Eating yogurt daily has been shown to help reduce 81% more belly fat than skipping it (on a calorie controlled diet). The bacteria in yogurt is incredibly good for your gut and it helps to promote healthy digestion naturally! It's great when you're working out because one cup contains 13-20 grams of protein. Yogurt has loads of vitamins, including B-12, thiamin, riboflavin and B-6. All this makes makes yogurt a great choice for vegetarians and health food fanatics alike!
Some other benefits of yogurt? It's an amazing source of calcium, it helps strengthen your immune system, and research shows that it helps prevent/reduce high blood pressure. Yogurt also helps to prevent tooth decay because of the natural lactic acid. It's also naturally low in lactose, making it a good choice for those with lactose sensitivity.
Try it as a breakfast, lunch or snack with any type of fruit, cereal, nuts, honey, or cinnamon. It can be used as a substitute for sour cream on your chili, or instead of mayo in your chicken salad. Use it as a replacement for heavy cream in your favorite soup recipe or buttermilk in your blueberry muffins. It is definitely a great food to always keep in your fridge.
So, don't get turned off by the definition! Go ahead... enjoy the creamy white stuff and know you're doing something good for your body! Hello healthy yogurt!
How about you? Do you like yogurt? Do you have any easy recipes to share?
"If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet" (Proverbs 3:24)
"As soon as my head hits the pillow, I'm out cold..." Oh, if only it were that simple! Are you one of those lucky people that can simply lie down and fall asleep? The next morning you wake up relaxed and ready to tackle the day ahead after a blissful night's rest? Well, lucky you! Since high school I've often struggled with falling asleep and staying asleep. During my freshman year of college, it was the worst it's ever been. It could take me hours to fall asleep! I'd count sheep, toss and turn, try to think about nothing, and count backwards from 300 (that one actually works sometimes!) This usually left me feeling 'out of it' all day long the next day. YOU know the feeling! Thankfully, in the past year my sleep cycle has changed dramatically and I am much better at 'catching those zzzz's.' Although every night may not be perfect, I no longer consider myself an 'insomniac'. So, what's changed?? A lot of things. Here are my top 5 tips for how to sleep well!
- Get into a healthy routine. This is CRUCIAL for a proper night's sleep. I'm not saying that you have to climb into bed at exactly the same moment every night and wake up at 7 am on-the-dot every morning. But it IS important to establish a fairly predictable bed time and wake up schedule. This helps your body to find it's natural rhythm. And repeat the same general routine to unwind and help signal your body that it's time to relax. Turn off all your electronic devices, as well as your thoughts and energy. Let your body know it's time to SNOOZE!
- Eat consistent meals. This is HUGE! I can't say it enough! I try to eat just about the same amount of food everyday. Sure, some days may be a little less and others a little more... but on average I'm eating pretty consistently. And I'm choosing healthy foods, of course. Skip the sugar and caffeine late in the day and don't drink too much water after dinner. I used to skip meals or snack too much, but now my body has time to digest a healthy dinner and a little dessert and maybe even a tiny bed time snack. Getting in tune with your body prevents you from eating too much (you know that full, bloated, stuffed feeling) or too little (I'm famished!)... both of which make it hard to sleep.
- Skip the sleeping pills. Ugh! I HATE 'sleepy pills.' I've tried them on and off through the years and I quickly discovered that my body easily becomes dependent on them to fall asleep. I know some people recommend taking something natural like Melatonin, but I say get off the pills altogether. They mess up your body's natural rhythm and they create a sense of dependency. No thank you! Instead of looking for a calming atmosphere with a sleeping pill, create a relaxing environment in your bedroom... a clean, clutter-free, calming place to sleep. Try a little 'white noise' to drown out any background sounds. I love a good face mask to keep the light out, too.
- Skip the long siestas. I very rarely nap (although I always seem to fall asleep when I take a long trip in the car.) In order to sleep your best at night, never allow yourself more than a "cat nap" which is about 30 minutes or less. If your body goes into too deep of a sleep cycle you'll wake up partway through the next cycle. You'll wake up in something called "sleep inertia"... which is when you feel more tired than before you went to sleep. Avoid the long naps and you'll sleep SO much better at night!
- Stretch. If all else fails and you wake up in the middle of the night, get out of bed and stretch for 5 or 10 minutes. This will naturally de-stress your body and help you sleep like a baby. A simple back twist or some inverted stretching can really relax your mind and body and it can work out many of the kinks in your muscles. My mom doesn't believe this one, but don't knock it till you try it! I thought it wouldn't work, but believe me, it really does!!
My sleeping cycle didn't get better overnight, it took time and effort... so don't stress if you still have difficulty falling asleep sometimes- give it time! Plus, stressing about it never helps anyways!So these are my 5 tips for a better night's sleep!! How about you? Do you sleep well?? What are your tips to getting a good nights rest?
Dogs can be a LOT of work! You can't go away for the weekend without making arrangements. You can't enjoy a tasty piece of meat without sharing. Whenever you go for a walk you have to follow them around with a plastic bag. They jump up on your friends, they growl when they're angry, and they bark every time they see another dog walk by. Dogs can be a LOT of work, but at the end of the day, the family dog is part of the family... a very special part!!
Did you know that there are actually lots of health benefits to having a dog? Yup, that's right! Dogs really are "man's best friend." Here are some reasons to give your dog an extra treat today. And if you don't have your own dog, I'm sure you know of someone who does!
- Dogs keep you active. This is kind of obvious, but it's very true! Knowing that your dog is depending on you for his afternoon walk will motivate you to get up off the couch. Looking into those sweet 'puppy-dog' eyes will, at the least, guilt you into walking him. And that afternoon walk is so good for BOTH of you!
- Dogs help promote a healthy social life. Everybody loves to say 'hi' to a friendly pup when you're out for a walk. Dogs always provide an interesting topic for conversation and they promote interaction with others. Do you have a child struggling to make friends? The responsibility of caring for a family pet can help boost confidence and help him connect with other children. Even senior citizens enjoy interacting with other dog-owners!
- They promote a positive outlook. Did you know that pet owners are actually less likely to suffer from depression than those who don't have a cute canine of their own? Yep, that's right. That's because going out and playing with your dog increases the release of dopamine and serotonin within the body which helps to promote a 'happy' mindset! Besides, they love you unconditionally... and the wag of their tail always makes you smile.
- They promote better health. Studies have shown that owning a dog can lower blood pressure. In fact, just petting a dog can lower your heart rate! Research shows that children who live with dogs from an early age appear to be more resistant to allergies and less likely to get asthma and eczema. And that extra walk everyday certainly helps with your overall fitness level!
- Dogs keep you safe. Dogs really are man's best friends! The provide companionship and protection and they are loyal to the death! They'll do whatever it takes to protect you from an intruder. A big dog can be more ferocious to a 'bad guy' than a little dog, but the yappity-yap-yap of a little dog can certainly scare one off pretty fast!
Go hug a dog... he deserves it!
How about you? Do you love dogs? Do you have any pets?
Hey guys!! Happy January! The holidays are sadly behind us and we've all moved onto our New Year's Resolutions. If you are like most people, January 1st marks a new beginning... a fresh start... the opportunity to enthusiastically eat healthy and be happy! But the problem with most New Year's Resolutions (specifically health related ones) is that they are simply too strict. Why do you think so many of us fail by February? Think about it, we merrily gorge ourselves throughout the holiday season insisting that on January 1st we will automatically be transformed into brand new, completely self-disciplined, calorie-conscious, health-food fans with the willpower to say "NO" to our favorite treats 100% of the time. Who are we kidding? This mindset alone sets us up for failure!
I say this because I know from experience. When people see pictures of the 'old me' they do NOT see a health-food fan at all. They are surprised by the way I used to look, but honestly, they'd be even more surprised by my former eating habits. The problem with dieting is that it creates a cycle- a VERY hard cycle to break. It goes like this... you swear off your favorite, unhealthy treats, and you do okay... for a while. You most likely begin your new DIET, which also means you severely limit your calories. Sure, you'll lose weight fast, but it will probably find its way back!
One thing I've learned over the years is that a healthy diet is a balanced diet. My healthy diet includes plenty of spinach, green veggies, sweet potatoes, fresh fruits, detox smoothies, lean turkey, flax seed crackers, 90% dark chocolate, nutrition bars, salmon, grilled chicken, carrots, hummus, Greek yogurt, avocados and fresh salsa! But a healthy diet (for me, at least) also includes raspberry chocolate froyo, peanut butter chunk ice cream, salted caramel chocolate, peppermint bark and gluten free chocolate chip cookies.
You see, I've tried plenty of diets. I've tried low carb, low calorie, low fat, high protein, vegan, vegetarian, no sugar, no dairy... no FUN!! I find the best diet for me is one where I can eat anything in moderation. Of course, getting to the point were you can stop after just a few bites of a decadent piece of chocolate or a scoop of ice cream... well, that's a process... but once you get there, you can eat whatever you want and still actually lose weight.
What?? How can someone who writes a nutrition blog claim that ice cream and chocolate are part of a healthy diet? Here's how. I genuinely believe that the secret to a healthy diet is a healthy mindset about food. Food is just food. No more no less. Food is an amazing blessing that should be enjoyed. But in order to eat unhealthy foods, I need to be sure that they only make up a small percentage of my diet. For example, if I tell myself I CAN'T eat something, I crave it. Sure, I'll be able to resist it for a while, but eventually I'll cave and I'll end up eating too much of it, beyond the point of enjoyment.
Now, don't get me wrong, I still think that a break from refined sugar and processed foods would do everyone good... but you can't be too strict about it.
Here's what I'm trying to say... This New Year's, don't let your resolution to lose weight, or even just be healthy, get too strict. Everyone needs a little wiggle room. My advice? Aim to eat healthy nourishing foods 80-90% of the time, and give your body (and mind) a break 10-20% of the time. Eat healthy all day? What's wrong with a scoop of all natural chocolate ice cream after dinner? Don't refuse to eat your favorite foods only to end up binging on them later... why not just enjoy them in moderation?
What about you? Do you have any New Year's Resolutions? How do you feel about the principle 'All Things in Moderation?'
New Year's Eve is just 2 days away!! Can you believe that it's almost 2015?? Where has the time gone?? Today I want to give you my top 6 tips for fitting into your New Year's Eve dress! Of course, you can't lose 10 pounds in 2 days, but you can 'de-bloat' and feel your best... just in time to slip into your favorite festive dress!
- Skip the salt. Sodium causes your body to retain water (thus, extra weight and bloating). A couple days before 'the big event' be sure to skip the salty treats. Yes, this includes those delicious low-fat (but high sodium) sea-salt chips that go great with your salad, but it also includes things like deli meat, processed snacks, baked goods and every preserved product that you can think of. Even seemingly healthy eats, like cottage cheese and packaged oatmeal can be loaded with salt.
- Limit high-carb foods. Like sodium, high carb (specifically refined carb) foods cause the body to hold on to water... cut down on these and wake up to a slimmer tummy in no time. Beware of certain fruits which contain a lot of sugar, like cherries, grapes, bananas, and all dried fruits like raisins, dates and apricots. Swap your morning bagel or toast for some protein-packed eggs. Switch your afternoon sammie to a grilled chicken salad and munch on some fresh veggies and a healthy protein for a light and satisfying dinner!
- Exercise! This is critical!! If you wear a pedometer, aim for that lofty goal of 10,000 steps to keep your body looking sleek and slim! Try yoga or Pilates to stretch and lengthen your limbs.
- Perfect your Posture. Stand up straight and be sure your posture is perfect. When you 'slump' you scrunch down your body mass which makes you look shorter and wider. Hold your head high, pull your shoulders back and your tummy muscles in. You'll look taller and thinner, more confident and alert. Basically, you'll be looking prettier in just seconds!
- Hydrate. Flush out those toxins and hydrate your body like crazy! This will take the edge off hunger and limit unnecessary snacking!! Hydrated skin glows, so if you want to look creamy and dreamy, fill your cup and drink it up!
- Buy a dress that FITS! I suppose this suggestion should be at the top of the list. As women, we all know how tempting it is to by a dress that's just a little bit snug... you know, 'thinspiration'. We promise ourselves that we'll lose a couple pounds, but all too often the dress stays uncomfortably tight and we feel guilty and unattractive. Silly girls! Just buy the dress that fits and enjoy the fun and festivities!
How about you?? What are your top tips for looking and feeling your best after a season of indulgence?!
This guy really cracks me up!! :)
Haha! The Nutcracker is just one of the wonderful memories I made this Christmas week. Before I dive into 'healthy posts' for the New Year, I figured I'd reflect on the past week or so and the activities that led up to the special day! Last Saturday I went to the Nutcracker Ballet with my family! We've gone for the past few years and it's become a festive family tradition that I look forward to every year!
The day before Christmas Eve I spent baking with friends! We made lots of coconut macaroons and chocolate covered cookies and cherries! YUM! We wore fun festive aprons, listened to music, laughed a lot, and pretty much just enjoyed the "Christmas Spirit!" We ordered take-out (a delicious salmon salad for me!) and watched the movie, Hitch... not exactly a holiday classic, but lots of fun nevertheless.
I love baking! I used to nibble my way through every recipe, but I'm a lot more disciplined these days. I actually saved my calorie-laden treats for Christmas day!
Everybody knows this is the season to indulge in sweets, but I really try to keep my meals balanced and healthy! For most of my breakfasts this week I made stovetop oat bran which I topped with a sprinkle of brown sugar and almond milk! I love it... definitely the right way to start the day! For lunches and dinners, I enjoyed gluten free corn tortillas, eggs, grilled chicken, spinach salads, sweet potatoes, and lots of Fuji apples.
I spent Christmas Eve with a bunch of my crazy cousins at my grandparents' house! We go there every year and it's always a fun time. They decorate their house beautifully and we spend the night eating too much food, singing Christmas songs (off-key), reading Christmas stories, opening presents, laughing, and making memories! I love my family and I am SO blessed! This is a picture of me and my cousin Sage!
I spent Christmas day with the other side of my family and we had such a great day! More cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and dessert trays. I'll admit it, I indulged in treats and sweets, but wow, they were tasty! Now, it's back to 'healthy eats' to finish out the year and to welcome in 2015! I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and that you made memories that make you smile.
How about you? What are your favorite Christmas memories??
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
I know everyone’s busy today, but I just wanted to post a quick ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting to all! This is the most festive time of the year, but don’t forget the real ‘reason for the season’ and that is Jesus Christ! His birth has changed history (and my life too!)
I hope that you have a wonderful day filled with family and friends, delicious foods, and lots of love and laughter! Enjoy those tasty recipes and the people who made them. The day flies by so quickly, but the memories last forever… make them special.
And if today is a bit harder than most days, due to recent life changes or circumstances out of your control, I pray that you will sense a very special peace and comfort this year.