Ahhh... the age old debate in the world of health and nutrition... what's better for weight loss?   Allowing yourself a delicious high calorie dessert or sticking to only low-fat, low-sugar (low-taste!) options?!  Well, I'm hear to tell you which one I prefer... and I'd love to hear what you guys think, as well!

I used to opt for sugar free ice cream, 100 calorie snack packs, and highly processed low fat granola bars.  You know, all those quote-unquote healthy options!  And guess what?  I was 35 pounds heavier than I am now!!  These days I eat dark chocolate, rich milk chocolate, full fat ice cream and any dessert that I want!  The big difference (and the reason I can enjoy my treats and not feel guilty) is portion size!  I prefer small portions of the real, tasty, genuine, authentic dessert treats!  I would much rather have a handful of dark chocolate than FIVE 100 calorie packs!!  

Rich, decadent desserts are just SO much more satisfying.  It's almost a paradox of sorts... whenever I tell people that I eat chocolate and sweets every day, they're naturally pretty surprised!  It's normal to assume that eating a diet with calorie dense treats would result in weight gain, but it can actually result in weight loss!  Highly satisfying treats are helpful because they limit unnecessary snacking on low quality treats (like Starbursts, Skittles, cheap chocolate, etc.)  I've lost a significant amount of weight twice in my life, and both times I've allowed myself to eat treats daily!!  Ice cream every night??  Why not??

Eating a rich dessert feels like you're treating yourself instead of denying yourself.  Who cares if you can't eat the whole chocolate bar (trust me, when it's 90% cocoa... you won't want to.) 

Now I know I have a different view than most of my health conscious friends on this debate.  They'd prefer to cut out sweets altogether rather than have to limit the sweets... but I completely disagree.  So I'm curious, what do you prefer?? Would you rather eat low calorie sweets, no sweets at all, or the richest most delightful treats (in moderation, of course) when trying to drop a few pounds??  
Let the countdown begin!!  It's almost Christmas and I can't wait to celebrate! ... But sadly, my mind is in a million places! Trying to finish up classes, packing up all my stuff to head home, passing all my finals, and still having time to hangout with all my friends.  Like everybody else in this world, I am just SO BUSY! ...not to mention sleep deprived!  As these busy days speed briskly by, I want to encourage you all to stay 'healthy and happy' and to be sure and enjoy this most wonderful time of the year.

It's easy to let 'healthy choices' become a thing of the past when we're surrounded with the sweet aromas and tantalizing flavors of freshly baked Christmas cookies, creamy hot chocolate, amazing appetizers, dazzling dessert trays, and all things not-so-healthy!  Couple these tempting treats with a lack of sleep, busy study sessions and last minute shopping.  It can be all too easy to let your regular routines and healthy habits slip slide away!

But DON'T do it! Your stressed mind and exhausted body NEEDS to be nourished in order to function effectively and to keep enjoying the festivities. So for today's Monday's Motivation, I say-- EAT HEALTHY to BE YOUR BEST! Start your day with a real breakfast... maybe warm scrambled eggs and fresh citrus fruit or hot oatmeal with a sprinkling of walnuts, raisins and apples. Replace a caffeinated beverage with some hot herbal tea and deliciously creamy almond milk!  Drink plenty of water throughout the day and choose healthy snacks so that you're not famished when that oven door opens. Savor 1 or 2 of those delicious homemade cookies instead of 4 or 5.

Healthy living is all about being moderate and realistic.  It's easy to eat well when you're not feeling stressed and trying to accomplish a million things at once!  But when it's 'crazy busy' and temptation is just a whiff away, remember that YOU CAN DO THIS. Keep up the good work, enjoy each moment, eat that special treat (but don't overeat it!) and make the MOST of this most wonderful time of the year!

How about you?  What keeps you motivated when you're tired, stressed and oh-so-busy?!

"My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the honeycomb is sweet to the taste." 
(Proverbs 24:13)

I LOVE FOOD!  I really do.  I feel like every time I go out to eat, I ask someone to take a picture of me with my delicious food.  I suppose I love to relive the memory!  Just the other day I went out to eat with my family and my dad took a picture of me with my meal... (pictured above).  This got me thinking... I wonder how many pictures I have of me and my food?!

...So I looked through my pictures from the past couple of years and decided to make a fun blog post filled with a few of my fondest food memories!  As I looked back, I was reminded of so many delicious tastes, fun times, special friends and family, and important occasions.  So, here's a little round up of some of my fave food pictures!  
This was me in Montreal!  We've crossed the border the past two summers and here I was enjoying a delicious salad with smoked salmon and avocado!  Salmon is easily my favorite protein source, so as you can imagine, I truly enjoyed this healthy meal!  Salmon helps with inflammatory joint conditions and improves cardiovascular health.  It's good for your eyes and is an excellent source of tryptophan (which helps you sleep.) It is so tasty AND so good for you!
You gotta love Panera Bread!   After I went gluten free, I figured my options would be limited at a restaurant that has BREAD in its name... but this is not the case!  Panera Bread actually offers some glorious gluten free options including fresh salads (minus the croutons), filling soups (like the low fat vegetarian black bean and the creamy tomato), delicious smoothies, and tasty seasonal fruit cups!
Sometimes you just gotta treat yourself! ...okay who am I kidding??  I always treat myself... Hello Healthy Balance!  Since I'm gluten free, sometimes I order an ice cream cone (because cones are so much fun) and I enjoy everything but the cone!  Sometimes the nutritional benefits of a food can be less important than the smile it puts on your face.  As I look at this picture I'm reminded of just how much I LOVE ice cream!  I am definitely feeling a craving coming on!
Another picture from Wegman's!  I love that place!  The company treats its employees really well... and it shows.  They're so helpful and enthusiastic.  It's one of the largest sellers of gluten-free products and the prices aren't bad.  They have a wonderfully fresh buffet filled with an abundance of healthy options!  I love to fill up my plate with yummy roasted veggies and wonderfully seasoned chicken!  You pay by the pound, so I try to pile on choices that are not too heavy (in all senses of the word)!
Local cafes are my fave!! I love all the healthy options, fresh flavors, and the awesome atmosphere you find at many of these little places!  Here I am at one of my favorite cafes in my city!  I enjoyed some delicious tomato fennel soup!  Tomatoes are packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that helps to prevent cancer! ...plus tomatoes are so YUMMY and perfect for a chilly fall afternoon!

These are just a few of the foods I love to enjoy!  I may be 'smiling for the camera', but that's not the only reason I'm smiling!  I love delicious tasty foods... they keep me happy and healthy!

How about you?!  What are your favorite foods to enjoy?  Do you take 'food selfies' too?

Ecclesiastics 2:24 reminds me that, "There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God."

It's officially the "Holiday Season!!" ...and I'm loving it!!  From festive, seasonal, flavored hot tea to warm, cozy, colorful sweaters and scarves, here are just a few things that have been making me smile these days!

Coffee!! I'm a big coffee drinker!  There's nothing like enjoying a fresh cup (especially when it's so cute!) with a brand new magazine... and a few minutes to enjoy them both!
Gluten Free French Toast!!  I've never been much of a pancake/ french toast kinda girl, but over break my mum made delicious gluten free french toast which I enjoyed with some peanut butter, chopped apples and a drizzle of sweet syrup!  It was delightful!  The first piece of French toast I've had in years... but definitely not the last!  YUM!
Sweater Weather!!  It's certainly getting colder (which has it's downside) but one thing I love about this time of year is that it's Christmas 'Sweater Weather'!  Nothing beats warming up in a comfy, cozy sweater!  The thicker and more colorful, the better!
Okay, I know this was a little while ago, but when looking back on my pictures I couldn't help but post one from Thanksgiving!  It was such a wonderful dinner at my grandparents' house.  I loved seeing lots of my cousins and enjoying the delicious meal together.  My grandmother is an amazing cook and all the Aunties do a really good job with the sides.  This plate is proof that eating healthy over the holidays is totally do-able!  I filled up on turkey, a bit of tart cranberry sauce, green beans with fresh Parmesan, roasted beets, and a sweet potato oozing with its own natural goodness.  And that brown stuff that looks like stuffing is actually seasoned, roasted cauliflower that my aunt made!  Sooooo good!  I'm already looking forward to next Thanksgiving!

How about you?  What have you been loving lately?? 
Gotta love a day full of tasty eats!  I NEVER skip meals and I try my best to eat balanced throughout the day!  I fill up on nourishing foods and I always leave room for a few tasty treats!  Here's what I ate today!
Breakfast!!  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I NEVER skip it!  This morning I was able to 'sleep in' a bit, and then wake up in time to make myself a cozy breakfast!  I had a slice of gluten free toast with a dab of butter and jam.  I also scrambled up an organic farm fresh egg with a bit of gooey cooper sharp cheese.  I added some tart Fuji apple slices on the side and I sipped some hot decaf coffee with a splash of milk from a local dairy farm. 
Hello lunch time!  I spent the afternoon shopping with a friend and I didn't get home to eat lunch until 2pm!  Was I hungry!  Thankfully, this delicious meal hit the spot.  I munched on some baby carrots with hummus, a couple of rice crackers, half of a gluten-free grilled cheese and tomato sammie, and some sliced buffalo chicken deli meat.  I also had another small apple... sweet and delicious!
...And of course, I can't get through my afternoon with out at least a bit of chocolate!  Today was quite a chilly day and I knew that hot cocoa would warm me up from the inside out!  I sipped on a mug full of of Swiss Miss Caramel Hot Cocoa with a splash of milk and a few mini marshmallows.  I paired this with a small dark chocolate peanut butter truffle from Trader Joe's!  YUM!
Come dinner time, I was ready for some greens!  I enjoyed a fresh spinach salad with a few toasted walnuts, dried cranberries and feta cheese.  I also had a small 'jacket potato' with homemade chicken salad!  This is one of my easiest, most favorite recipes of all time!  All I do is mix some canned chicken with a little Greek yogurt and chopped celery!  Easy-peasy, healthy and tasty!  I had some apple slices again because it was the only fruit that we had in the fridge and I love to have fruit at every meal... besides, 2 apples in one day isn't the worst thing in the world, is it?!
After dinner?  Dessert time!  I eat a little sweet after lunch and after dinner almost everyday.  I try to keep my portions pretty small so that I can guiltlessly satisfy my sweet tooth!  Tonight my family was watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  I love spending time with the family, watching a show together, and enjoying a tasty treat!  I had half of a small homemade gluten free brownie, a scoop of Slow-Churned Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream, a dollop of cool whip and a few mini marshmallows on top.  This dessert was SO delicious and such a treat!  The perfect way to end the day!  

How about you??  What did you eat today?  What's YOUR favorite dessert?!
I'm thankful to be in my cozy home for the holidays! I'm thankful for my family, friends, and adorable dog Jess!
Happy Thanksgiving!  Are you feeling thankful today?  Are you sharing that gratefulness with others?  

1 Chronicles 16:34 reminds us...
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever."

Thanksgiving comes but once a year... but did you know that adopting a consistent 'attitude of gratitude' can be extremely beneficial for your health??  Thankfulness actually reduces stress, promotes a healthy sleep cycle, lowers risks for various diseases, improves your relationships with others, and helps you enjoy all that you have!  But how exactly do you develop a thankful mindset that you can maintain all year long?  Here are my top 5 tips:
  1. Count your blessings.  A classic way to feel more grateful is to think about the 'blessings' in your life.  Stop focusing on what you don't have and make a list of all the things you DO have!  Family, friends, your health, food to eat, a place to sleep, clothes to wear, etc.  It's hard not to be grateful when you're remembering all the 'good' in your life.
  2. Keep a Gratitude Journal.  Why not write it down?  Sometimes, you can overlook or forget about the 'good' in your life.  Maybe you're dealing with difficult circumstances, difficult people, or difficult decisions.  Write down the good things, the happy memories, the wonderful friends and family, the incredible gifts God has given you.  Then look back and reflect, remember, and be thankful.
  3. Pay it forward.  Sometimes the best way to be thankful is to bless others who aren't so fortunate.  Help out in your local soup kitchen, babysit for a busy mom in your church, donate some of the clothes you never wear to those in need.  Helping others promotes gratitude and thankfulness in your own heart.  You'll never regret blessing others!
  4. Be optimistic.  Look at the challenges you're facing as 'opportunities, not obstacles'.  Change can be good and overcoming hardships can be rewarding.  Look forward to what lies ahead and don't dwell on what's in the past.  It can help change your perspective and how you approach life.  There's nothing like a thankful heart!
  5. Thank God for all your blessings!  When someone gives you a gift, you've always been taught to say 'Thank You'.  Be sure to send a note or make a phone call.  Well, don't forget to do theses things, and also be sure to thank the Lord!!

I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving filled with fun festivities, fantastic food, and fellowship with family and friends!  Happy Thanksgiving!
Ohhh stress...  We all know the frustrating feelings of stress and anxiety in our daily life.  Yet somehow we find a way to handle a busy class schedule, a demanding boss, financial strains, or long hard work hours.  Family problems, unrealistic expectations, health concerns, personality conflicts.  Although tough, we somehow get used to these things, they become 'routine.'  We struggle through and make it work.  But THEN, just when we think we've finally got it handled, something unexpected comes our way and life gets even MORE stressful!   Meanwhile, the normal routine of healthy, balanced living that we've worked so hard to establish and maintain... It gets shaken... Totally unbalanced all over again.

These past few weeks have been stressful... to say the least. Between an already busy class schedule and some various unexpected 'life' events, I found myself in a weary, flustered and frazzled state.

The thing about stressful situations is that they're really just part of life!  When things don't go our way, we can't stop everything and wallow in self-pity, even though, lets be real- sometimes that's exactly what we WANT to do!  And we can't give up and 'throw in the towel!'  While we may not always be able to control the situation at hand, we CAN control our response to it.  Here are my tops 5 tips to deal with seriously stressful situations!

  1. Pray.  Philippians 4:6 reminds me, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."  Sometimes there's nothing that we can really do to change or 'fix' a stressful situation, but that doesn't mean God leaves us alone in our stressed state.  NOT at all!  We are reminded to humbly come before Him with ALL our requests... knowing that HIS plan is better than ours!  Often we feel that we cannot handle our current circumstances.  "Let go and let God!"  HE can handle anything... Actually, Everything!
  2. Walk.  This is my BIGGEST way to handle stress.  I walk ALL the time!  I'm no 'gym rat,' but I sure do love walking out in nature and enjoying the fresh air.  For me, walking is therapeutic.  It's a way for me to calm my racing mind and simply clear my head.  On my campus we have a beautiful pond that I love to walk around.  Even as the temperature dips steadily southward, I'm always out there walking!  I bundle up in a cozy jacket, fuzzy hat and a warm scarf and grab my mason jar full of hot peppermint tea with a splash of creamy almond milk!  The PERFECT way to de-stress!!
  3. "Keep Calm and Call Mom"...I saw this on a mug the other day and I realized it pretty much refers to me!  I call my mum everyday to chat, but especially when I'm feeling particularly stressed.  She's always quick to calm me down.  The same goes for friends.  I'll call some of my best friends just to chat.  It's nice to know that they're always there to listen when times get tough!  Grab your phone, go for a leisurely walk, and talk to somebody who loves you.  This is a sure way to calm down and relax!
  4. Use that extra energy.  I don't know about you, but when I get stressed out, I get this intense feeling that I MUST do something.  It's the same feeling that sometimes prevents me from falling asleep at night.  I just feel like I've gotta keep moving.  It's a kind of 'nervous energy.'  Rather than let this get to me, I've learned to use this energy in a productive way!  Why not crank out a few assignments, some lists, something you've been 'putting off'?  Get BUSY to get your mind off the stressful situation?
  5.  Think BIG picture.  Okay, maybe this is just the little "Drama Queen" within me, but sometimes when things don't go as planned (or hoped) I begin to feel like the world is ending!!  (Okay, I exaggerate... but you know what I mean!)  It's easy to lose sight of the big picture in particularly difficult times and feel like everything is ruined.  It's these times that we need to step back and realize that this really isn't the end of the world... and when I can't seem to see that for myself, I need a reminder.  I simply refer to Tip #3, "Keep Calm and Call Mom!"

Now, your turn!  Considering you're human and you've probably dealt with some particularly stressful times in your own life, what is YOUR favorite way to cope with stress??  How do you handle the unexpected 'stressors' of life?

Hot, creamy, satisfying, nutritious and oh-so delicious!  I just LOVE warm oatmeal on a brisk chilly morning!  Oatmeal is definitely one of my favorite breakfasts to wake up to!  It's perfect if you love yourself a 'carb-y' sweet start to the day, but you hate feeling hungry at 10am from your wimpy bowl of cereal.  (Don't worry cereal, you will always hold a special place in my heart... but sometimes a girl needs a FILLING and tasty breakfast to get her day started and keep her going!)  So when in doubt, I turn to oatmeal!

Did you know that oats only have 130 calories per cup?  Oatmeal is naturally low in calories, high in fiber and it even contains protein!  Plain oats help to balance your blood sugar because their unique whole grain complex slows the rate at which your body absorbs their energy.  It's no wonder a bowl of perfectly healthy stovetop oats keep you satisfied all morning!

Another great quality of oatmeal is just how versatile it is!  How do I love it?  Mixed with a bit of pumpkin puree and chopped nuts for a seasonal treat... or with chopped banana, cinnamon and peanut butter, or even with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips on top for a special treat!  Oatmeal is one of my favorite Fall comfort foods!  I always add a bit of Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk to give it a creamy consistency!  Delicious!

Looking for some easy tasty 'low calorie' toppings?  Try a tablespoon of dried cherries, apricots, figs, peanut butter or strawberry jam.  Each tablespoon of chopped cashews, walnuts or almonds contain about 100 calories.  A tablespoon of toasted coconut or chocolate syrup also have less than 100 calories each and they're a fun little way to make your oatmeal almost a dessert!

I love to mix plain instant oats with some boiled hot water in my thermos first thing in the morning.  I add an (excessive) amount of cinnamon and take it 'to go' just in time for my AM class!  Nothing better than a warm, healthy breakfast to wake me up and keep me going!

What about you?  Do you like oatmeal for breakfast?  Don't you love it even more this time of year?
Sometimes finding the motivation to 'eat right' can be challenging... especially when your body is used to enjoying high fat and sugary foods on a regular basis.  Creating a healthy lifestyle doesn't happen over night... it's a slow process that is definitely worth the effort.

Here's the thing about me, I love healthy food.  I love fresh green veggies, sweet baby carrots, steamed sweet potatoes, succulent grilled salmon, crisp Fuji apples, rich dark chocolate... the list goes on and on.   But 'craving' genuinely healthy foods didn't happen 'overnight'.  My taste buds have changed over time to become more accustomed to (and actually prefer) healthier foods that nourish my body.

That being said, I don't eat ALL healthy foods simply because they're healthy.  You'll rarely find me mixing nasty-flavored protein powder, chomping celery, or drinking carrot juice (which I thought I'd love... but actually hate).  The point is, I've tried tried lots of healthy foods.  Some I don't care for and I've found some that I really DO love.

So maybe you can't foresee yourself sipping a kale smoothie any time soon, but you wouldn't be opposed to munching on some freshly made kale chips.  Or maybe you hate the texture of fresh broccoli, but wouldn't mind it steamed with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Maybe you can't stand the smell of fish, but you you'd really enjoy a piece of grilled chicken breast.  Super dark chocolate may be 'too bitter' for you.  That's okay, try a small piece of 60% and work your way up.  Maybe you NEED your AM coffee, but how about trying it with just one packet of sugar instead of three, and why not a splash of vanilla almond milk instead of full-fat cream?

The point is, when you begin to take "baby steps" toward a healthier lifestyle, it doesn't feel so extreme.  It can actually be fun!  It's a challenge... and you feel better because each step you take is one step closer to a healthier you!

So for today's motivation, forget the strict crash diets that promise you'll drop 5 pounds by the weekend, instead work towards a healthier life that's reasonable, maintainable, and enjoyable!   After all, healthy life is all about "progress, NOT perfection!"

How about you?  What are the little steps you're taking to live a healthier lifestyle?  What keeps you motivated?

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

Friends shape us, they change us, they help us to become who we really are.  Friends boost your happiness and reduce your stress.  They make you feel like you belong and that you have a purpose.  Friends challenge you and watch out for you. They help you deal with the tough times and REALLY enjoy the good times.  Friends encourage you... and you do the same for them. Let's face it!  Friends are good for you!  This past weekend my school had Fall Break and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the long weekend with one of my closest friends, Morgan!  Morgan is one of the most godly girls I know.  I look up to her like an older sister and we get along great!  Like any true friend, we seem to spend more time laughing than anything else.  In addition to being such great friends, we are both totally passionate about health and nutrition.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we both know that are bodies are "God's temples" and we want to be wise with how we treat them.

We spent the weekend relaxing, shopping, cooking, hanging out and talking 'all things health and nutrition!' She too, had lost a lot of weight in high school and has been interested in health ever since!  The weekend was so relaxing and refreshing... a great way to keep us both motivated for the month (and the season) to come!

On Friday night (Halloween) we stopped by GNC to pick up a few things and we ended up getting a bunch of free samples of their vitamin/ supplement chews!!  It was our own little version of "Healthy Halloween" Trick-or-Treating!
Gotta love a freshly made smoothie!  Here we are heading to Church on Sunday morning.  We actually made  ourselves a batch of healthy and delicious smoothies everyday!  It's such a great way to add in some fresh fruits/ veggies!
We cooked 3 spaghetti squash this weekend!  I love this Italian version of the tasty 'pasta impasta' with some ground turkey and tomato sauce.  It's great with pesto, red pepper flakes and Parmesan, too.  It actually tastes really good with so many different toppings and healthy additions.  It is most readily available (and at the best prices) this time of year, so be sure and get a couple.  They have a shelf life of up to 3 months so you don't have to worry about cooking them right away.
Ahhh!  Salmon and sweet potatoes!!  What a treat!  These are actually considered two of the world's healthiest foods!  Salmon is good for your eyes and your heart and your brain.  And sweet potatoes have over 400% of your daily vitamin A requirement!  They've got loads of fiber and potassium and only about 160 calories.  They help with digestion and regularity, vision, inflammation, and blood pressure.  Wow!  Going out to eat is always special, but keeping it healthy is a requirement for me!
Look at that view!  Morgan lives near the beach so, of course we went exploring!  Sadly, it was SO cold and windy.  We got some fresh air and a little exercise, took a couple snaps and headed back inside.
What a relaxing, healthy weekend to get us motivated and ready for the rest of November!  So excited for "Nourishing November!"  Enjoy the change of seasons and spend time with those you love.  Be encouraged and encourage others.  Time flies by so quickly and it's easy to miss opportunities, so get out there and make the most of today!

What keeps you motivated?  Are your friends as passionate about health and nutrition as you are?!