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Healthy Snacks Roundup: My Current Go-To’s

I’ve always been the hangry type, but breastfeeding seems to have amplified that, and having a newborn means I have little time to prepare snacks in-the-moment. If you’re like me, not prepping snacks in advance means you’re raiding the pantry for goldfish and cookies. In an effort to eat a little healthier than that, here are the healthy snacks I keep on hand:

  • Cut fruit + veggies: Simple and refreshing. I find it helpful to buy a lot of fruits and veggies and prep them all for the week during one of Stella’s naps. We usually have watermelon, strawberries, carrots and cucumbers washed and cut up in the fridge. Note that if they were not washed and cut previously, I’d be far less likely to grab them in a pinch.
  • Cheese sticks: I don’t like mozzarella, but I love colby jack. I buy cheese sticks for when I’m craving a salty snack but want real food rather than something out of the pantry.
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter + cinnamon: I love this as we’re heading into fall. Plain rice cakes topped with peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Light but filling, and super quick to throw together.
  • Smoothies: when I have a few minutes (aka Stella has been fed recently and is asleep), I love to make smoothies. My favorite combo is frozen banana, almond butter, almond milk, and chocolate protein.
  • Energy balls: These need to be prepped in advance, but are super quick to make so I usually make them when I’m finished chopping fruits and veggies for the week. My go-to recipe here is:
    • 1 cup almond butter
    • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 2 tbsp flax seeds
    • and lately.. I’ve been rolling them in sprinkles!
  • Yasso bars: I love the chocolate fudge flavor to get my dessert fix but without going gangbusters on calories.

I’m always looking for new ideas to throw into the mix! What are your go-to healthy snacks?

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Travel Diaries: Atlanta Recap

One of my husband’s goals is to see all of the MLB stadiums in America. Being the great wife that I am, for his 30th birthday I gifted him tickets to see the Braves and Brewers play at SunTrust stadium in Atlanta. It didn’t hurt that now that we’re in the south, Atlanta is only a 4-hour drive and the closest stadium to our home city of Charlotte. Perfect for a weekend trip!

We kicked the weekend off by taking a half day on Friday to drive to our AirBnb in Atlanta. I chose a reasonably-priced one-bedroom apartment in midtown Atlanta with free parking and gym access. It was also conveniently located with lots of great places to walk to nearby! When we travel, we typically only use the AirBnb’s for showering and sleeping, so amenities aren’t that important to me, but the gym on site was great!

Once we dropped off our bags, we walked about a block away to get dinner at Papi’s Cuban Grill. I’d never had authentic Cuban food and this did not disappoint! Their skinny marg and Pollo Vaca Frita (pictured below) was exactly what I needed after that drive. Tequila, vegetables, and chicken: what more could I ask for?

After dinner, we decided to check out the Georgia Aquarium (it was a nice little break before we started drinking more, okay?). Once I knew we were going to Atlanta, this is one of the first “must-do” activities I put on the list. I’d never been to an aquarium before and this set the bar pretty high. The range of sea life was amazing! I particularly loved the jellyfish, penguins, and the area where you could walk through a glass hallway underneath/among a huge pool of different fish. I highly recommend making the trip if you’re in Atlanta. It’s a kid-friendly activity, but as adults, we definitely enjoyed it too. As an added bonus: all of the tourist attractions of Atlanta are located right next to each other, so if you plan on touring Coca-Cola or CNN (neither of which we did) or walking through Centennial Park (this we did do!) then you can knock them all out in a few hours without transportation.

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I asked around for advice on what we should do while in Atlanta, and multiple people suggested Ponce City Market, which is where we headed next! It’s super cool and full of different shops and restaurants. We got edible cookie dough from Batter Cookie Dough Counter and walked around. I enjoyed it, but if I did this trip over again, I would’ve saved Ponce City Market for a brunch trip. It’s nice because since there’s a food hall, you can get food and (alcoholic) drinks from multiple restaurants and consume it anywhere. So, if you’re with friends and you all want different things, no problem. Order from the restaurant of your choice and meet up in the middle to eat together! We also had a hard time figuring out how to get onto the rooftop, and by the time we figured it out, we were over it and skipped out. That’s one other thing I’d do if I go back to Atlanta: get on that rooftop!

By this point we were starting to wind down and walked to a brewery near our AirBnb called Torched Hop. They had great beers and we loved the vibe! I prefer breweries during the day and have a hard time drinking craft beer at night, but they had great cocktails so I was saved. My husband loved the beers though! We were really happy to find a good brewery because the craft beer scene is so big in Charlotte that we’re used to spending more time at breweries than bars these days.

That was our last stop of the night before heading back to our AirBnb to rest up for the long Saturday ahead!

Saturday kicked off at the gym in our AirBnb. My husband and I did a partner workout (in the caption here). We like to work for our beer, so a quick HIIT session did the trick!

Post-workout, we walked to brunch at Babs Midtown, where we had Blood Orange Mimosas with our breakfast food. I don’t remember what we got to eat, but I remember it being good, and I definitely remember those mimosas!

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Once we’d kicked off the day with drinks, we decided to embark on a drinking tour of Atlanta. First stop (at my husband’s request): an Irish bar called Meehan’s Public House. I usually love Irish bars, but it was a dark bar with only indoor seating and it was so beautiful outside I couldn’t stay too long. It would be a great spot to watch a game or spend some time in the rainy weather, though.

We headed out down the block to the Atlanta Braves bar in anticipation of the game later on! I didn’t have high expectations of a sports bar in the city, but my god, the service at this place blew me away! Our bartenders were extremely friendly and carried on interesting conversations with us while slinging amazing drinks. When we decided to leave, they handwrote a list of cool places for us to check out. It was so nice! If I go back to Atlanta, I will 100% go back to this bar for the service.

Based on the list given to us by these friendly bartenders, we headed to Little Five Points (not to be mistaken with Five Points–apparently if it’s not “Little” Five Points, you’ll have big problems!). This artsy neighborhood is full of vintage shops and dive bars and reminded us of our neighborhood in Charlotte, Plaza Midwood. We went to Little 5 Corner Tavern, a fun little dive bar. This is definitely an area I would explore more if I ever go back to Atlanta! It feels less touristy than the downtown area and I’m a sucker for neighborhoods with character, which Little Five Points had in abundance!

By this point in the day, we were ready for some lunch and headed to SweetWater Brewing at the recommendation of a friend. This was one of my favorite things we did in Atlanta. The brewery is a good size and has a lot of outdoor seating (perfect for day drinking in the beautiful Southern weather). The food and beer selection was also great! Apparently, they’re pretty new to serving food, but we were not disappointed. We each had a salad and beers (mine sours, Colin’s IPA’s). It’s not my favorite brewery of all-time (currently that’s Sierra Nevada in Asheville) but I’d put it in my top 10!

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Last but not least, we decided it was time to head to SunTrust Park for the Braves game. I had not been looking forward to it (my husband loves baseball enough for the both of us–I personally find it pretty boring) but it was the surprise of the trip. It ended up being my favorite thing we did! The park is brand new and beautiful. Working in marketing, I can fully appreciate the effort that went into creating the ultimate fan experience. It’s not just a baseball stadium: there are bars surrounding it and carnival games and a zipline within it. The food and drinks were super cheap (which I did NOT expect since Yankee Stadium was my only prior MLB experience). If you plan on visiting any MLB stadiums, move this one up on your list. And if you don’t, but you find yourself in Atlanta, I highly recommend catching a game here!

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After a long Saturday, we Ubered back to our AirBnb. We woke up Sunday and went to breakfast at Flying Biscuit (YUM – biscuits are the king of breakfast in the South and I judge people who don’t order them). They’re actually a franchise with locations in Charlotte but we had never been and it was highly rated so we checked it out. It was good and the service was quick, but my favorite thing about eating here was actually that the restaurant was located right near a big, beautiful park that we walked around as our breakfast digested. This also gave us time to wait for our last stop of the trip to open up: the College Football Hall of Fame.

Again, this was not something I was particularly interested in (sensing a theme here? not a big sports fan!). And again, I was surprised. Where I was expecting a traditional museum, this was instead a digitally personalized experience. Upon entering you get a “pass” that identifies you and your team of choice. The exhibits then change to display facts about your school. I wasn’t expecting to see much as a Syracuse University alum, but I ended up learning a lot about my school’s history with football. Colin, of course, had plenty to do as a Penn State fan. We also enjoyed the indoor playing field where I threw a pretty solid spiral directly into the target! Overall, it was a pretty good experience.

I enjoyed Atlanta, and while I mentioned there were things I’d do if I go back, it’s not someplace I’m dying to go back to (unlike Asheville, where I would go 100 more times). Have you been? I’d love to know what you think of the city and what you did while you were there!

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How and Why I Cut My Caffeine Intake

I love coffee. I love the taste of it, the smell of it, the ritual of drinking it, and the feeling it brings. To me, coffee is energizing, euphoric, and a staple in my day. Over the course of about 10 years, it grew to be a 3-4 cups per day staple.

I saw no problem with this. I was treating myself to something I loved. It made me feel happier, more productive. What I didn’t see was how it was affecting my anxiety, my sleep, and my wallet.

So, why did I stop drinking coffee?

But let’s back up a bit. In November 2018, I started to have sleep issues. Before then, I’d been the type of person that passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow. I could sleep on command. I’ve fallen asleep in the car surrounded by loved ones all awake and talking because it was late at night and I value my sleep that much. So when these issues hit, I was shocked and confused and realized I needed to take a deeper look at my lifestyle.

I have healthy sleep hygiene. I relax at night with epsom salt baths, sleepytime tea, and occasionally yoga. I work out regularly, I eat pretty well, I try to manage my stress. I know exactly how important sleep is to a healthy lifestyle. So what could be causing this issue?

Besides overthinking it and not managing my stress as well as I thought I was, it was brought to my attention that my caffeine consumption should be looked at. I was not excited by the thought, but I’ll rise to a good challenge with a clear purpose. So in December 2018, I started my journey to cut my coffee consumption from 3-4 cups/day down to 1.

How did I cut my caffeine consumption?

I’m not a cold-turkey kind of person–I don’t believe that large, black and white changes all done at once create sustainable, lasting change (i.e. my healthy habits program that I created to completely combat this notion). So I started by cutting down to 2 cups/day for 2 weeks. I used to drink a cup of coffee right when I woke up (5:30/6 AM) then another when I got to work (8:30/9 AM) then another when I needed an afternoon pick-me-up (1-3 PM). The first cup I decided to cut was my mid-morning “when I get to work” coffee. This was pretty easy–I never really felt like I needed that cup since I was still buzzing from the first, it was more out of habit that I drank it.

Once I had comfortably shifted to 2 cups/day for 2 weeks, I cut down to 1 cup. This time, I decided to cut my very first cup of coffee and my afternoon cup, and go back to having a cup when I got to work. This change was much harder. Working out without caffeine was a big change for me at first, and when the afternoon slump hit, I struggled. I’ve found that caffeine-free herbal tea helps (especially this herbal elements blend) and so does decaf. But as the days have gone on, I’ve found that I’m even less reliant on those substitutes.

How do I feel now, 1 month into less caffeine?

I’m amazed that throughout this process I didn’t suffer from any headaches or true withdrawal symptoms. I did try to go totally caffeine-free one day and felt like my brain wouldn’t turn on, so I ordered a half-caff Pike’s Place from Starbucks (a girl’s still gotta get work done, right?!). I plan on sticking with half-caff for another few days and then trying to go coffee-free for awhile. I want to make coffee a treat again (and save some money in the process!).

I’ve also found that since January 2, 2019, I no longer have sleep issues. The first day I shifted to 1 cup/day was January 1. Now, I have made a lot of other adjustments (including meditation, gratitude journaling, and melatonin) but I can’t deny that I’ve felt less anxious and less “tired but wired” since I’ve embarked on this journey.

Do you drink a lot of coffee or a lot of caffeine? Have you embarked on a similar journey to reduce your consumption? I’d love to hear about it below!

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What’s In My Emergency Snack Kit?

If you’re anything like me, the hanger is REAL come 3 p.m. (or really any time it’s been 3+ hours since I last ate). My energy dips, I can’t think, I’m grumpy.. and with that, I’m likely to reach for anything in sight as my next snack. To stop this cycle from affecting everyone around me, I make an effort to keep snacks on hand at all times. The following convenient options are my go-to’s:

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  1. Protein bars. Seems like a no-brainer, but I eat them so often they have to make the list. I’ve previously mentioned my love affair with Quest bars, but I’ve also been keeping GoMacro bars on hand recently. They only use vegan ingredients that are found in nature, and their high protein flavors are so good! Anything with nut butter and I’m sold.
  2. Fruit with greek yogurt/nut butter. I like to pack this snack for work so that I can refrigerate it. Mixing plain greek yogurt with a little nut butter and topping it with fruit is fresh and filling! If you don’t have refrigerator access, a banana with an almond butter packet does the trick too.
  3. Homemade protein treats. If I have time to snack prep along with my Sunday meal prep, I like to make a healthy, homemade treat to stick in my bag for when hunger strikes. Some of my favorites are these muffins and these protein balls.

What’s in your emergency snack kit?

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Banana Nice Cream: Summer Recipe Roundup

Is there anything better than ice cream on a hot day? I could eat it for every meal, every day in the summertime, so I sought out healthy alternatives. These recipes are quick and made with whole, simple ingredients.

Banana Nice Cream

  1. Cookies and Cream – if you make one recipe from this list, it should be this one. It’ll change your life (read: you’ll become addicted very quickly).
  2. Blueberry Muffin – great post-workout breakfast – make it even more filling by adding more almond milk and a scoop of vanilla protein powder.
  3. Cake Batter – admittedly, I haven’t tried this one yet, but I can’t get enough of Cold Stone’s Cake Batter ice cream and I have high hopes.
  4. Chocolate PB Cup – I love to add a sprinkle of cacao nibs and some melted pb drizzle.
  5. Rocky Road – again, haven’t tried this one, but it’s on my to-do list.

What flavors have you tried?

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A week of Summer Salads

When summer hits, the last place I want to be is inside working on a hot stove/oven. So for most of my summer dinners, I turn to salads.

Salads get a bad rap for being boring/girly/lame/you-name-it. But to me, they’re refreshing. Crunchy. Flavorful. Light. Easy. And they’re variable. The options are endless, people! So, salad-haters, take your disdain elsewhere. And if you’re a salad-lover like me, try some of these below (and leave your own favorites in the comments)!

A Week Of Summer Salads

Monday: Kale and Quinoa Salad

I went with a vegetarian option for #meatlessmonday:

  • Massaged kale – I use about 2 cups per person. Destem, drizzle with olive oil, and knead/massage it for about a minute. The leaves will become greener and softer (much better for a salad).
  • Roasted chickpeas – About 1/3 cup per person
  • Quinoa – About 1/2 cup per person. I prefer to use white quinoa because it’s fluffier than red.
  • Avocado – 1/4 per person
  • Drizzle olive oil and lemon for dressing

Tuesday: Mexican Chicken Salad

A good option for a lighter #TacoTuesday:

  • Romaine – 2 cups per person
  • Pan roasted corn – 1/2 cup per person
  • Grilled chicken (spiced with cumin, cayenne, and garlic) – 1/2 breast per person
  • Black beans – 1/2 cup per person
  • Avocado – 1/4 per person
  • Pico de gallo – 1/4 cup per person
  • Tortilla chips – a handful crumbled on top

Wednesday: Berry Chicken Salad

  • Baby spinach – 2 cups per person
  • Blueberries – 1/2 cup per person
  • Strawberries – 1/2 cup per person
  • Grilled chicken – 1/2 breast per person
  • Feta cheese – sprinkled on top
  • Pecans – sprinkled on top
  • Pomegranate-blueberry dressing – drizzled on top

Thursday: Shrimp Cobb(ish) Salad

  • Massaged kale – 2 cups per person
  • Hard-boiled eggs – 2 per person
  • Shrimp (pan-seared in cajun) – 5 per person
  • Cucumber slices – 1/2 cup per person
  • Pico de gallo – 1/4 cup per person
  • Greek yogurt ranch dressing – drizzled on top

Friday: Jalapeno-Cheddar Burger Salad

  • Romaine – 2 cups per person
  • Pico de gallo – 1/4 cup per person
  • Grass-fed ground beef – 1/4 lb per person
  • Baked sweet potato fries – 1/2 sweet potato per person
  • Cheddar cheese – 1/4 cup shredded per person
  • Jalapeno – as many slices as you can handle
  • Sriracha – drizzled on top

Saturday: Waldorf(ish) Salad

  • Baby spinach – 2 cups per person
  • Apple chunks – 1 apple per person
  • Grilled chicken – 1/2 breast per person
  • Feta cheese – sprinkled on top
  • Pecans – sprinkled on top
  • Pomegranate-blueberry dressing – drizzled on top

Sunday: Fattoush Salad with Chicken

So there you have it! And if you’re looking for a healthy week, salads are a great way to get back on track after a weekend of bingeing.

What salad recipes should I try next?

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How To: Recover from a Weekend of Overindulging

If you’ve been here before, you know the core purpose of my fitness journey is to encourage balance and living your best life. And if you’re like most people I know, even once you’ve found that “balance”, it can fall out of whack from time to time.

For me, it happened this weekend. I was on my first-ever trip to Boston and I wanted the full experience (aka some craft beers and hot pretzels at Harpoon – seriously if you haven’t done this you need to). I don’t regret it, but I did know I wanted to get back to my veggie-filled lifestyle come Monday morning.

Summer is full of celebrations like this. Traveling, bridal showers, weddings, bachelor(ette) parties, graduation parties.. the list goes on. These weekend experiences are key to enjoying life (who wants to say no to a party?) but going overboard can set you up for feelings of guilt and demotivation. We’ve all been there. But the good news is, one weekend of binge eating (and drinking) doesn’t have to be a complete setback. Read on for my tips to start the next day fresh, followed by little tricks to keep yourself balanced on those weekends where you’re afraid you’ll spiral out of control.

How To- Recover from a Weekend of Overindulging

  1. Stop beating yourself up. That’s not helping. You can’t set the clock back 24 hours and knock that piece of cake out of your hands, so stop thinking about it. Also, one or two days of overeating won’t ruin your life. What matters is what you do now to set yourself up for success moving forward.
  2. Break a sweat (or two). Push yourself a little harder than you usually do in your next workout. Picture all those extra calories fueling you through one more mile or helping you hit that new lifting PR. If you usually run, add some strength or interval training to your workout in addition to that run, or vice versa. You’ll get your metabolism and motivation fired up!
  3. Hit 10,000 steps. In general, moving more than usual will help you get back on track. It doesn’t have to be high intensity. Bonus if you get outside and go for a walk – the fresh air will help you feel better.
  4. Fuel up on fresh fruits and veggies. Take a break from the processed foods that are probably sitting like a rock in your stomach. Replacing those with only nutritious foods for an entire day will help you get your glow back and increase your energy!
  5. Fill up on clear fluids. Drink water and tea to help get things moving in your system. This helps even more if drinking played a part in your binge.

And as for preventing those feelings of guilt down the road, try these tips on your next weekend of expected debauchery:

  1. Set small limits for yourself. If you love dessert, don’t go for the apps. If dip is your thang, stay away from the dessert. Make a rule that your plate has to be half full of veggies and you have to eat them before moving on to anything else. Little things like this will allow you to indulge and enjoy without feeling like you’re back at square 1.
  2. Still break a sweat. No matter what you have going on that day or where you’re traveling to, set aside 20 minutes to sweat. You’ll thank yourself later. Also, if you’re traveling, it’s fun to check out a workout class that isn’t offered where you live.
  3. Limit your calorie-laden booze. Craft beer and specialty cocktails make a great first drink, but once you’re buzzed a vodka soda or light beer will do the trick.
  4. BYOB. That second “B” being “breakfast”, if you’re traveling. Packing your own breakfast (preportioned bags of oatmeal, bananas, protein bars, etc.) can cut calories (and costs) when traveling.

How do you reset after a marathon weekend? What keeps you on track while celebrating?

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7 Healthy Road Trip Snacks

This weekend I went to a bachelorette party in Deleware. We stayed in Lewes Beach, but also stopped (drank) in Dewey and Rehoboth. It was a blast!

I knew I’d be eating out a lot once I got there, so I made sure to at least pack my own snacks for the 6-hour drive. Below are my favorite options:

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Sweet Snacks:

  1. Quest Bars – These are a given since I can’t get enough of them. Rocky Road and Blueberry Muffin are my current favorites.
  2. Fresh Fruit – Whatever’s in season will work, but I usually pick bananas since they taste best at room temperature and aren’t as messy as other fruits.
  3. Dates – Also known as “Nature’s Candy”, these are a great alternative to processed sugar when you’re looking for a sweet treat.

Savory Snacks:

  1. Plantain Chips – A healthier take on potato chips, these are a great option if you’re craving salty, crunchy snacks.
  2. Nuts – Cashews, shelled pistachios, and almonds are my go-to’s.
  3. Roasted Chickpeas – I make my own depending on the kind of spice I want. Garlic and cajun are great, but sometimes just a little salt does the trick.

Fresh Snacks:

  1. Veggie Sticks – Baby carrots, celery, and speared cucumbers are convenient veggies to eat while driving.

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Buying food on the road can be expensive, time-consuming, and less-than-healthy. Being prepared with your own healthy road trip snacks can make all the difference.

What snacks do you pack for a road trip?

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10 Instagram Accounts You Need To Follow

Instagram is my favorite social media platform. Beautiful visuals, short form content, (generally) a positive message. Opening my @healthydoseoflife account first thing in the morning and seeing people’s posts can be a great motivator and help me start my day off on the right foot. I also love to use Instagram when I’m looking for new healthy recipes. Here are my fave accounts you should follow if healthy recipes/motivation/wellness are your thang, too.

  1. @ambitiouskitchen 

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2. @fitfoodiefinds

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3. @carrotsncake

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4. @addictedtodates

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5. @fitmittenkitchen

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6. @fitfoodiemama

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7. @paleomg

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8. @thefitfork

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9. @leefromamerica

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10. @hungryhobbyrd

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What are your favorite accounts? Any others I should follow? Leave them in the comments!

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Friday Faves #2

Happy Friday! Here are some of my favorite things from this week:FridayFaves (1)

  1. Quote: “This has the meaning I have given it”. This sounds like it would make a great mantra when you’re feeling dragged down.
  2. Moment: Accomplishing my first ever muscle-up! A week and a half too late for 17.2, but right in line with my March goals. Checking this off as complete!
  3. Recipe: These protein pancakes. Here’s what they looked like pre-cooked.

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What are your highlights this week?