Healthy Taco Pizza {weeknight friendly}

Hi guys! Happy Tuesday! I thought I would take this opportunity to share one of my favorite easy weeknight “recipes” — TACO PIZZA!  It’s not necessarily the healthiest thing in the world (although it’s much healthier than a typical pizza), but it’s so easy to make that I can throw it together after work on a week night.  Since the goal of my blog is to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle despite all the things life throws your way, I thought this would be a fun, easy recipe to share.  Plus, who doesn’t love tacos and pizza? 

taco pizza

One of my goals on this blog is to show you that you don’t always have to follow recipes exactly, or have every single ingredient on hand.  It’s more important to understand the “components” of a recipe and try to use what you have on hand, use what aligns with your dietary needs, and what you like.  Read on —> 

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Meal Plan for the Win {Week of 4/19/16}

Hi! How was your weekend? Ours was a nice mixture of being busy and relaxing.  We celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday, went on a few walks (the weather in NJ was beautiful!), did some shopping for an upcoming trip, and cooked a lot of food for the week.    Speaking of food prep, I thought I would share what I did this weekend to prepare for a really busy week ahead.  Besides being really busy at work, I also have several client meetings, Bar Association events, networking events and a family get together.  I was also hoping to be able to sleep, eat, exercise and most of all, spend time with my husband.  What’s a working girl to do?  PLAN!meal plan food prep

Thanks to my Sunday food prep, my meals this week will look something like this —>

Breakfast: Egg bake with spinach, shredded potato, onion, maple turkey breakfast sausage, garlic and spices. For days that I hit the gym, I also have 1 scoop of Sunwarrior protein powder with water or a protein smoothie.

Lunches: I packed 3 containers of quinoa, shredded rotisserie chicken and 1 cup of roasted  chickpeas, broccoli, onion and carrot based off of this Chickpea Broccoli Buddha bowl from Hummusapien  (I have meetings the other 2 days).  I topped each bowl with 1 large spoonful of the peanut sauce from Hummusapien’s recipe.  It’s one of the best sauces I’ve ever had!  Perfectly sweet, salty, spicy and savory – the Thai would be very proud that you hit all 4 “S”s!

Dinners:  Trader Joe’s quinoa/brown rice pasta with “creamy” sauce (almond-milk based roux) w/ sundried tomatoes, basil, onion and rotisserie chicken based on this recipe; OR vegetarian re-fried bean & chicken enchiladas; OR leftover chickpea broccoli buddha bowls with a salad.

Snacks: roasted Indian chickpeas; cucumber and carrots with hummus; Boom Chicka Pop; Lara or KIND bars.

In order to have these meals (and others) all week, I had to prep the following today (Sunday):

  • Slice organic strawberries for smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits;
  • Cook 3 cups quinoa in chicken broth;
  • Shred chicken of 2 rotisserie chickens from Wegmans;
  • Roast broccoli, carrots, onion and chickpeas;
  • Prepare Trader Joe’s Brown Rice & Quinoa pasta & non-dairy sauce w/ chicken and sundried tomatoes;
  • Slice 2 lemons to use for water and tea all week;
  • Slice carrots & cucumbers for snacking;
  • Prep ingredients & cook egg bake.

Did you do any meal prep over the weekend?  How do you manage eating well during the week when you’re really busy? 

How to ID Skin Care Chemicals | Parabens, Sulfates & Phthalates

I spend a ton of time (more than I care to admit) thinking about, preparing, chopping, cooking, and packing healthy meals almost everyday.   Despite the fact that I use beauty products everyday, I have not put nearly as much time or attention into carefully selecting and purchasing these products like I do with food.  I’ll sit in Wegmans and read 4 nutrition labels for a pasta sauce, but I don’t even bother to look at the label of a lotion I’m going to slather all over my skin?  I can’t really provide any justification or excuse, either.  Can you?

skin care

I’m embarrassed to admit that I only recently started taking a serious look at what beauty/skin products I’m using, what’s in them, and which ones I can find that are healthier for my body.  I have made the conscious decision to put more time and energy into what’s soaking into my largest organ: my skin.  As you know, the point of this blog is to help busy professionals, like me, maintain a healthy lifestyle despite a hectic schedule.  So I’ve done the heavy lifting for you guys! (You’re welcome!)

Did you guys know in 2016 the global skin care market is expected to reach sales of nearly $11 billion?!  The Nutrition Business Journal reports that the organic/natural skin care industry is just shy of $4 billion.

This prompted me to start a little series here on the blog.  Today’s post is the first in that series: identifying what is in your products and how to read the labels.  Next up, we’ll focus on a few easy swaps you can make, healthy, environmentally-friendly companies making great beauty products (thank goodness for Acure!), and which products are the most important to swap for a healthier alternative if you’re on a budget.   Read on –>

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Healthiest Travel Snacks | Flying Edition

Hi all!  I haven’t gotten into it too much on the blog quite yet, but I am a travel fanatic! I have traveled all over the world and in a few weeks I’m going to check several more places (Russia, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, Estonia, etc.) off my list.  I can’t wait to write about it!  If you know me at all, this won’t come as a surprise, but whenever I travel I’m mostly focused on FOOD.  Although I’m pumped to try some exotic and new foods when I get to my destination, I know that the airlines are not going to give me very good options on my way there.  I’ve flown 25+ hours to fly around the world, so that’s a lot of time to eat snacks : )  I wanted to talk a little bit about some snack ideas that may help you figure out how to stay healthy (food wise) while traveling.

healthiest travel snacks

Whatever you bring, you want it to (1) be easy to eat on a plane, (2) not smell, and (3) stay well in your bag.

I try to bring a variety of foods so that I can combat the sweet, salty, and savory cravings that may strike.  Here are some ideas of things you can bring along with you if you’re traveling by plane:

  1. Fresh fruit you can eat with minimal mess: grapes, apples, pears, blueberries, banana.  I wash everything before I go to the airport, and pack them in Ziploc bags with a paper towel for easy eating.
  2. Veggies: cut up peppers, cucumbers, baby carrots, or other similar veggies and pack in a small lunchbox/cooler bag to bring on the plane.
  3. Hummus package: see #2.
  4. Good quality dark chocolate.
  5. Popcorn: I love taking Boom Chicka Pop and putting some in a Ziploc bag for the plane ride.
  6. Gum and mints.
  7. Lara Bars and KIND bars: Try to grab the KIND bars that have less than 5 grams of sugar so it’s more of a snack than a dessert.
  8. Justin’s Almond Butter or Peanut Butter packets: these are a life saver.  Keep a few in  your carry on to add quick protein and healthy fats to airport oatmeal (from Starbucks!), a banana or apple, or some veggies.
  9. Trail mix: either make your own healthy mix ahead of time, or grab some of the healthier options from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or Wegmans.
  10. Dried items: roasted chickpeas for some protein/fiber, raw almonds for protein and healthy fats, or dried fruit (with no added sugar) for something sweet.
  11. Protein Powder: to make your own packets, put 1 scoop in a snack sized Ziploc bag.  Bring a few or 1 for each day you’re gone.  It’s so easy to toss in a glass of water, milk, or non-dairy alternative and have a quick protein-rich drink on the go.

Here’s an airport tip in case you need a healthy breakfast on the go –> if there’s a Starbucks or other coffee shop nearby, grab an oatmeal (it’s a much better option than that stale bagel that’s been sitting in the airport for 3 weeks) and use the banana and Justin’s almond/peanut butter packet you brought to create a more filling breakfast.  I like to slice the banana and add the nut butter on top.

Here’s an example of what I brought with me on a recent trip to Denver, CO:

travel snacks

Are there any snacks you like to bring with you when you travel? Is there anything you look forward to in the airport or on the plane? Who can resist airplane peanuts?! (Although I noticed they don’t serve them much anymore!)


Some of the links above are Amazon affiliate links.  Any and all support of this blog project would be much appreciated.

The Healthiest Food Shortcuts

healthiest food shortcuts grocery

If you’re anything like me, you have plenty of weeks where you have little to no time to prepare healthy meals/snacks.  Some people just throw in the towel and figure if they have no time, they will just grab take-out, go to the drive-thru, or grab something from their freezer.  I like to think that I’ve come up with a happy medium for those weeks.  I’m going to share some of the shortcuts that have helped me reach that balance.

The key: healthy food shortcuts from some of my favorite grocery stores.  Healthy shortcuts = food items that are either already prepared, or have done all of the “heavy lifting” for you (i.e., chopping, peeling, steaming, etc.), so that you can easily incorporate them into a simple meal or snack.  Healthy shortcuts are one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite working so much.  Even though this may mean paying a little more for convenience items, I think it’s worth it in the end.

I’m on a budget – don’t get me wrong.  But I also work a lot, and my husband works a lot, and we don’t always time to do everything we want to do throughout the week.  I allocate a part of my budget to convenience items at the grocery store if I want to eat well but don’t have the time to prepare everything from scratch.  Remember: You can’t do it all!  Work, kids, school, healthy eating, exercise, relationships, family, friends…. the list goes on and on.   The key is being able to recognize what areas you’re willing to pay a little more for.  For me, healthy shortcuts are a big convenience factor that I’m willing to pay for.

TRADER JOE’S

Cauliflower Rice – although you can buy a head of cauliflower, chop and pulse it in a food processor, doesn’t it sound a lot easier to buy a bag of it already done for you?  It’s SO much easier to toss this cauliflower rice into a pan with 1 Tb. EVOO and saute for a few minutes until cooked through.  Plus, TJ’s version only has cauliflower and a little salt as the ingredients.  Just the way it should be.  Delicious! And so much easier.

Lentils – I love lentils, but I don’t love the amount of time it takes to cook them.  Sometimes I just want to throw lentils in some soup or on top of a salad to add more protein but I don’t have the time (read: several hours) to cook dry lentils.  Enter TJ’s Steamed Lentils, which are less than $3 and already cooked for you!

lentils

source

Brown Rice packets – when I food prep, I try to cook rice on the weekends if I know I’m going to use it for a stir fry or to add to taco bowls.  When I don’t have the time, these brown rice packets from TJ’s save the day.  Although you can heat the rice in the microwave in the packet, I like to remove it from the plastic and heat it on the stove (you can toss it in soup or in a skillet with veggies) to heat it up in a healthier way.

Hard Boiled Eggs – Another great, go-to protein source in our family is hard boiled eggs.  I try to make my own most of the time, but the whole point of this article is for those weeks when you just can’t get it done. For less than $2.50, you can buy this bag of 6 hard-boiled eggs.  They make it so much easier to get your daily dose of protein.  Just chop them up and put them in a salad or eat along with a smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast.  Remember, though, 1 egg only has about 6 grams of protein.Trader Joe's Apples

Organic Apple Slices – even I will admit this is a true lazy girl trick, but hey – I do what I can.  I find that I’ll snack more on apple slices in they’re pre-cut and ready to go on my busiest days.  This bag of apple slices is great to have on hand as a healthy go-to snack.  They make for an easy and convenient travel snack, too!   I have to have mine with some TJ’s Almond Butter :  )

 

WHOLE FOODS

Tasty Bite packets – I keep a few of these on hand in the house to make a quick and easy vegetarian Indian meal when hunger (hangry!) strikes.  Again – this is all about convenience and having back up options! Of course I’d rather make this from scratch.  But let’s get real – who has the time to make an Indian dish from scratch on a weeknight?  (If you do – I’m jealous!)  Toss a packet of Tasty Bite’s channa masala, lentils, punjab eggplant, etc. with some of Trader Joe’s brown or cauliflower rice for a simple vegetarian meal when you have little time.  I try to round out my meal with a big salad with tomatoes, cucumber and carrot to add some additional nutrients.

whole foods

Organic Frozen Fruit – one of the biggest ways I trimmed my grocery budget and made room for these convenience items was to stop wasting fresh fruit and start buying frozen fruit for oatmeal and smoothies.  I still buy plenty of fresh fruit (especially when it’s on sale over the summer), but I learned to buy the fruits we weren’t finishing throughout the week from the frozen section instead.

Whole Foods’ Guacamole – this is probably the hardest to stomach because although it’s delicious, it isn’t cheap.  I love making my own guacamole when I can, but this is a great option to have on hand to throw on top of a salad, tacos, chicken, etc. throughout the week if you don’t have time.  To keep it fresh – flatten it out in the container after using, put a very thin layer of water (enough to cover the guac), and store in the fridge.  I dump out the water before serving and repeat the process all week long.

Frozen Greens – I love Whole Foods’ frozen kale and spinach because they’re easy to toss in  a smoothie, steam for a side vegetable, or to de-thaw, sauté, and add to any dish.  You can always find organic, affordable bagged options.  Not only are they much easier to use, but you can ensure you have healthy greens on hand if you just keep some in the freezer all the time.

Are there any items I missed? I’m always looking to learn about healthy shortcut options! What are some of your favorites?

 

Friday Favorites {4/1/16}

Hi everyone! Hope you’re having a great week.  I haven’t been quite as active on the blog front this week.  I’ve been so busy at work… can’t do it all!  When I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions, I try to take a step back and evaluate what I have going on.  The first thing I do is drop anything I can that’s not mandatory and that doesn’t have a added benefit to my life.  That step alone tends to make me feel a lot better.  Although it seems counterintuitive, I make sure I’m taking the time to eat well, exercise, and get plenty of sleep when things are feeling extra stressful.  If I don’t, it just makes everything feel that much worse.  Hope this helps if you’re busy, too : )

feta salad

One of the ways I like to unwind at night is by reading my favorite blogs.  Here are some of the recipes and articles that caught my eye this week:

FOOD

chickpea broccoli buddha bowl

source

This amazing looking (and vegan!) Chickpea Broccoli Buddha Bowl.  We’ve been really into bowl meals lately.  They’re so versatile, customizable, and easy to re-heat.

As I said in my make ahead breakfast post, I try to prep 1 or 2 meals on the weekend that I can re-use for breakfast throughout the week. This sweet potato, goat cheese & turkey bacon egg bake looks awesome!

I made this recipe last weekend when we wanted to have dinner in instead of going out and it was SO good.  My husband had it for leftovers everyday until it was gone : )  Give it a try!

LIFE & ORGANIZATION

healthy beauty products

source

Natural Spring Cleaning – this post from Davida at The Healthy Maven is an amazing round-up of ideas to try in the home, mind and kitchen.  I can’t wait to make some of my own cleaning products using the tips in her post!  I like to do a spring cleaning of appliances this time of year – 1-2 cups of vinegar and a sprinkle of baking soda + run 1 cycle + air dry.

Making healthy habits stick.  Who doesn’t need help with that!?

EXERCISE 

Medicine ball workout from Fitnessista

Lindsey posts great workouts complete with instructions, video and a printable/pinnable option – I can’t wait to give this 30 minute AMRAP a try sometime soon.  Any workout <30 minutes, and I’ll try it!

Have you read anything great blog posts this week?  What do you do when you start to feel too busy and overwhelmed? 

 

 

How to Use a Standing Desk (Properly)

Good morning! I hope you all had a nice weekend.  If you had off on Friday, I hope you got to enjoy some extra time doing something fun for yourself or with family and friends.   Today’s topic: standing desks.

Since Monday morning means back to work for a lot of people, I figured I would share some tips on how to properly use a standing desk.  If you don’t have one, read on to consider some of the things you may need if you purchase one.  I never really thought about any of these things until I got a standing desk at work.  I learned the hard way that just standing and typing is not enough – you have to take some precautions and measures to protect your joints and get the most out of your new office toy.  Now that I have one, I love it! Mine is electric so I put it up and down throughout the day.  I find that I’m really focused when I’m standing!

Thinking of getting a standing desk? Try Beyond the Office Door.  They’re a Wisconsin company who makes their desk in the U.S.  They have electric and adjustable stand up desks.  If you like to buy things off Amazon, try this Varidesk for another adjustable option.

Pin this —->

standing desk tips

Gather Your Tools:

  • Make sure you have comfortable shoes in the office and wear them any time you use your stand-up desk.  You should not stand in heels or anything that lacks support for your feet.  You will definitely regret it later…

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Friday Favorites {3/25/16}

Happy Friday everyone! To those of you celebrating the holiday this weekend, I hope that you have a great weekend and get to spend time with family and friends.  The weather is supposed to be pretty nice here in Philly, so we’re hoping to get outside and enjoy the Spring weather.  Here are a few favorites from around the interwebs this week.  Enjoy!

beets whole foods

[gorgeous beets at Whole Foods this week]

Food:

Lee, you had me at Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars <3

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3 Make Ahead Breakfast Options

Happy Wednesday!  I hope you’re all having a great week so far.  I don’t know why, but having breakfast prepared ahead of time is one of my biggest musts.  It may be because I don’t like to eat when I first wake up, or also because I enjoy stopping for coffee after the gym and on my way to work as a way to break up the day.

Either way, I’ve had to figure out some staple recipes that I can turn to that are 1) healthy, 2) budget conscious, and 3) easily prepared ahead of time and good to re-heat.

Since many of my favorites are from some of my favorite bloggers, I thought I’d share their recipes here with you and let you know what changes, if any, I made to make them any healthier or more transportable.

#1 the Fitnessista’s make-ahead breakfast burritos

make ahead burritos

Can I say more?  These breakfast burritos are not only muy deliciosa, but they’re versatile and easy to take to work, too.  You can get creative with the filings and swap out or add ingredients you do or don’t like.  I’ve made these with and without a little cheese, with spinach and roasted veggies, or without guac for my husband.  Make a batch on the weekends, freeze, and then wrap in a moist paper towel and microwave for 2 minutes when you’re ready to enjoy.  This was a huge hit in our household!  Side note: these also made for a great “gift” to my sister and brother-in-law after they came home from the hospital with their newborn son.  It was so easy for them to re-heat and eat with one hand!

#2 Steel Cut Oats + fruit/nuts you have on hand

This one is not fancy or complicated, and therefore it makes sense that it’s my own.  When I’m craving oats for the week, I make 1 big batch of gluten-free (these GF ones from Bob’s Red Mill are great) over the weekend to use all week long.

apple oatmeal

To make –> bring 6 cups of non-dairy milk (almond or coconut are best), 1 tsp of vanilla extract and a pinch of sea salt to a boil.  Once boiling, add 1.5 cups of steel cut oats and stir.  Turn down to a simmer, and let simmer for about 25 minutes.  Approximately 5-8 minutes before the oats are finished cooking, I add whatever fruit I’m going to use that week (strawberries, blueberries, unsweetened dried cherries from Trader Joe’s, etc.).  When you re-heat, just add a small splash of water before heating.

#3 PB Fingers’ Customizable Egg Muffins

custom egg muffins make ahead breakfast{I made these with red peppers, parsley, spinach, tomato and onion}

These egg muffins are so simple, yet delicious! They make for an easy on-the-go option and are filled with protein and nutrient-packed veggies.  I like that you can change up the veggies you use each time you make them.  I also try to include some difference spices or fresh herbs to bring even more flavor to the party.  They re-heat really well, too!

What do you like to eat for breakfast?  Do you have any easy make-ahead options that you can easily transport to work and re-heat? 

3 Reasons You Should Exercise in the Morning

I was hesitant to even write this post because I honestly believe that you should fit in exercise whenever you can.  I also understand that not everyone is a morning person or that you may have circumstances that prevent you from exercising in the morning.   On the other hand, I can only speak from experience and in my experience, my lifestyle requires I schedule and plan exercise ahead of time if I want to make sure I get my daily movement in.

benefits to morning exercise

It’s also important to define “exercise”.  Exercise doesn’t mean hours in the gym or even going to the gym at all.  It can be a class, yoga in your house, a brisk walk, or whatever else movement means to you.  It’s really great that there’s a push now to just move more overall.  I think people are realizing that it’s unhealthy to sit for the majority of the day, even if you do exercise.  Not only do I have to work out at night sometimes because of my work schedule (can’t go to a deposition with sweaty hair!), but I don’t even work out everyday.  I do what I can, when I can – and that works for me.  I just prefer to workout in the mornings because of the benefits I’m going to talk about in this post.

Now that we know I’m not just talking about going to the gym, working out everyday, or ALWAYS working out in the AM, let’s talk about some of the reasons it’s helpful to fit your exercise in the AM (when you can!) if you’re busy.

Pin this! —>

benefits to exercise in the morning

 

Fewer Interruptions:  I don’t know about you, but not many people call me early in the morning and invite me to Happy Hour or to grab breakfast before work. There are very few people who want to hang out with me at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning :  )

I found that when I left my workouts up in the air, I would consistently shove them aside to do things that were clearly more fun – go to happy hour with my co-workers, meet my family for dinner, or go out with a friend.  The point is, I want to be able to do all of these things when they come up, so exercising in the morning means that it’s out of the way and leaves my days and nights open.   In addition to “social interruptions”, I also found that unexpected work projects came up or that a long day at work left me feeling so drained that, despite my good intentions to exercise after work, I couldn’t muster up the energy to go to the gym when it came down to it.

There are 2 steps you need to take if you want to stick with morning workouts: (1) become a morning person and (2) schedule your week ahead of time.

To become a morning person (or at least get up when your alarm goes off!), check out this article by Athena @ Fitness & Feta.  She gives some great tips and touches on a lot of the things I suggested in this post and this post.

In terms of scheduling, try sitting down for even just 5 minutes on Saturday or Sunday to plan out your week.  I keep all of my appointments, meetings, court hearings, dinners, etc. in my iCalendar so that I have a really good idea of what I’m doing all week and which days are off-limits.

I then enter a calendar entry for each one of my workouts.  I try to use fun emoticons and even put the exact workout I’m going to do in the notes section (i.e., 30 mins cycling, yoga class @ gym, Workout #1 Winter Shape Up, etc.).  Anything you can do to make it more exciting than it is, right?

IMG_2981

{When I have less than 25 or 30 minutes and I’m looking for a quick cardio session I warm up at a moderate walking pace for 5 minutes, and then switch on/off between walking briskly at 4.0 mph for 2 minutes and running ~7.0 mph for 2 minutes for 20 minutes total before cooling down for about 5 minutes at a slow walking pace.  Gets the job done!}

Set Your Intentions: For me, one of the biggest unexpected benefits to morning exercise was how it affected me for the rest of the day.  If I’m going to take all of this time to set out my clothes the night before, make my breakfast, pack some protein powder, get up at the crack of dawn and sweat my heart out, then I’m certainly not going to reach for that mediocre cookie leftover after an office lunch meeting.  For the most part, I’m motivated to eat well for the rest of the day and make sure that I get plenty of water to rehydrate myself.

Overall, I think you’re much more likely to stick with your goals if you feel like you’re putting forth effort and that you don’t want to blow it.

Energy Boost:  Another benefit to morning exercise is that you actually feel more energized throughout the day.  Morning exercise is the gift that keeps on giving because your EPOC (excess post-exericse oxygen consumption) keeps your body burning calories long after you leave the gym.

Exercise (in many forms) also gets your blood pumping and oxygen flowing, which studies have shown can have lasting effects on your mental sharpness for up to 4-10 hours.  If you work long, stressful days like I do, you know how beneficial this point is!

Need some motivation? Try this:

  1. Love music?  I look forward to plugging in to unplug from the world when I exercise.  Download the Spotify app, find a playlist or station that you love, and give yourself something to look forward to.
  2. Remember the feeling you get after you exercise.  Have you ever regretted a sweat session?
  3. It motivates me to think of my overall goal (to be healthy and well) and that getting up and moving is another step towards that goal.  It doesn’t hurt when I buy myself a new pair of Zella leggings every once in a while (<——- have you guys tried these? I’m obsessed!) either :  )

*Please remember, I am not a personal trainer or a fitness expert, I’m just sharing my personal experience and some of the planning tips that have worked for me. Thanks for reading! 

Do you like to exercise at any particular time?  If you exercise in the morning, what motivates you to get up each time and sweat it out? 

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