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Where To Start On Your Health and Fitness Journey

Improving health and fitness is a common goal, but starting your information search can be completely overwhelming. One site will say to stop eating carbs, another will say they’re essential. One site will say to only eat between 12-8PM, another will say to eat several small meals throughout the day. Instead of following any of these arbitrary rules or going “all in”, I recommend starting small. The following 5 basic habits are great places to start, then refine your journey from there. Which habit you start with will depend on where you’re at in your journey and what area of your life could use the most help.

1. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water.

Water is key in helping you feel your best. Calculate your body weight in lbs, cut that number in half, and set it as a goal number of ounces to drink each day. If this is a reach for you, start smaller and work your way up. These tips also help:

  • Swap one coffee/soda/juice/glass of wine per day for water.
  • Use sparkling flavored water to help you hit the goal.
  • Drink a glass as soon as you wake up!

2. Remove distractions when eating.

We often multi-task, eating while we do other things. This takes away our ability to tune into our own hunger and fullness cues. Removing distractions (tv, phones) helps us slow down, enjoy our food more, digest better, and listen to our bodies. People often eat less and eat better when the distractions are removed, without having to track intake or consciously change food choices. Giving your food more attention just through slowing down and removing screens has a wealth of impacts and is relatively simple to implement.

3. Add walking to your day.

Workouts get a lot of attention, but what are you doing during your other waking hours every day? If the answer is sitting, let’s work some more movement into the day. Walking is a great option because you can do it inside or outside and it helps with both stress management and getting in enough activity. A nice most-meal walk helps with digestion, too! Set a timer to get up at the end of each hour and walk the entire house, or to your mailbox, or to the end of your street. Or, after each meal, walk for 5-10 minutes. The activity adds up (and also creates positive momentum for you to keep going).

4. Develop a bedtime routine.

Better sleep improves physical and mental health. It allows you to recover and gives you the energy to be more productive during the day. Sleep may be the single biggest “bang for your buck” change you can make to your health. Some easy places to start are: decreasing caffeine intake (especially in the afternoon), going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, or starting a bedtime routine (there’s a reason it works so well for kids!). I’ve found the Hatch Restore to be so helpful for nighttime routines (and gentle wake-ups). I also find that reducing blue light after sunset helps me wind down (which is why I love these glasses).

5. Start small with working out.

You don’t have to work out 7 days a week to see results, and in fact, you shouldn’t. Especially if you’re just starting. How many days per week do you think you can commit to exercise for the rest of your life? That is the number of days you should start with, and usually that number is more like 2-3 days/week. In the beginning I’d also focus less on “what’s the most effective workout” and more on “what do I like doing enough to stick to it”. Try different things: strength training, barre, spin, running etc. See what sticks! My Get Strong At Home program can be modified for fewer workouts/week and is a great way to try working out at home.

You may have noticed that not all of these are diet and exercise related. That’s because your health is much deeper than that. If you are dialed on your nutrition and exercise but have no social interaction, can’t sleep at night and spend your entire day thinking about food and exercise, I’d argue that you’re not experiencing optimal health.

If you’re looking for help with habits like these, my HealthierU program may be for you. Our virtual group setting encourages accountability and gives you access to expert coaching at a fraction of the cost for 1:1 coaching. And if you’re looking for a more advanced/customized plan, contact me about 1:1 options!

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Mental Health Awareness Week + Ways to Take Care of Your Own Mental Health

Physical health receives a lot of attention, especially in the midst of a pandemic (hello, COVID-19). It feels like mental health continues to be stigmatized and take a back seat in comparison. For instance, here in 2020, there is a LOT of concern about catching/spreading COVID-19, and significantly less attention is being given to the mental illnesses that can take hold in a time like this (depression, addiction, etc.)

Mental and physical health go hand in hand. We can’t have sustained physical health without being healthy mentally. Let me start by saying, if you are going through something and battling your mental health, you are not alone. I am always available to chat with anyone in need! And in some cases, I would recommend seeking professional help. This is not something to be ashamed of – I sought therapy for help getting through two occasions so far in my life and could not recommend it enough.

My husband and I saw a marriage counselor together prior to getting married to help me navigate my relationship with my parents, who did not approve of us living together before marriage. I was keeping a lot of who I was bottled up inside and keeping secrets from my parents to avoid confrontation. Seeking therapy helped me break this cycle, and Colin coming with me helped him learn how to best support me through a difficult time. This was a HUGE breakthrough in my life. Colin and I couldn’t move forward and start our own family until I was honest with my family.

I also sought therapy after moving to Charlotte. About 6 months in, I was really missing my friends, not loving my job, and questioning our decision to move. I was unable to sleep at night and crying regularly because of the stress of it. Seeking therapy helped me learn to trust myself, fall in love with this city, connect with local friends, and get back into the fitness community. If I hadn’t gone to therapy, I would probably be back in Syracuse (loving time with my friends and family who I miss!) but not on the growth path that I want for my life.

Neither one of these situations lead to a “diagnosis” — it doesn’t need to. Therapy is for everyone and anyone who could benefit from it. But if therapy isn’t in the cards for you right now, there are still steps you can take to improve your mental health (not a replacement for therapy, just some daily practices that I have found helpful in my own life to keep my low-level anxiety at bay).

Practices for Mental Health

  • Meditation. You knew this was going to be on here. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably heard about the benefits of meditation by now. I used to think meditation was just sitting silently for a period of time (which sounds sooo not fun). This isn’t the most helpful for me – my mind wanders and I am easily distracted. This is why I prefer guided meditation using an app. I like insight timer for free meditations for a variety of purposes, but I loved headspace when I was struggling through my sleep issues. The sleep course gave me my sleep (and life) back.
  • Get enough sleep. Set a bedtime routine and schedule and stick to it. If sleep is hard to come by, might I once again suggest the headspace course I listed above? I also found blue light blocking glasses make a big difference here, or even reduced screen time. Which brings me to my next point..
  • Reduce screen time. Set app limits or try a digital detox. There is SO much noise and distraction out there and it can lead to comparison syndrome and overall just be so draining. I took a 24 hour break from social media a couple months back and felt great, which reminds me, I should schedule another one!
  • Exercise. This is another one you knew would be on here, and if you don’t know where to start, might I suggest HIIT at Home, Get Strong at Home, or Virtual Personal Training?
  • Gratitude journaling. I have been gratitude journaling for close to 2 years now, and it’s amazing to me all the little things I can find to be grateful for. It really helps me see the good in every day and in my life overall. I credit my journal for keeping me sane when quarantine first began and every day started to feel like a “waste”. I found joy in the little things like more money saved, more time for my morning routine, working from my screened in porch, etc. It’s a quick practice to write down 3 things I’m grateful for every day and it helps me start my day on the right foot.
  • Connect with those around you. In COVID times, there’s a lot of shaming for people spending time together in person, but this is absolutely VITAL to my mental health. And it turns out, having strong mental health can boost your immunity. Please keep that in mind next time you are judging/shaming people who are meeting up in person. Anyway, a strong sense of community and connection is great when it comes to support. Meet a friend for a hike, give them a call, or hop on FaceTime. It makes a world of difference, and feels sooo much better than texting, I promise.
  • Set boundaries. This can be uncomfortable in the moment, but in the long run, it’s important and impactful to say no to what doesn’t feel good for you. That means saying no to people who aren’t supportive and keeping your priorities straight. For example, if work is always bleeding over into your family time, is that really what you want? Find a solution that stops this from happening (offload some of your work, find efficiencies, or find a new job).
  • Make time for fun. When is the last time you played, or did something just for yourself that makes you smile? Put on your favorite song and dance along. Carve out time for a hobby you’ve been neglecting. Life is too short to not emphasize joy.
  • Go outside. It’s amazing what a little fresh air and sunshine can do. Even if the sun isn’t out, you could kill two bird with one stone and “make time for fun” on a rainy day by splashing in the puddles.

These are just some of my favorite ways to take care of my mental health. What are some of your practices/what’s missing from this list?

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How To Get Out Of A Rut

Is it just me or has 2020 felt like a rut? Nothing like a global pandemic during an election year to force you to take a hard look at the way you live your life! Being in a “rut” can feel pretty icky – when I’m in one, I feel completely stagnant. But it also provides an opportunity. Coming out of that rut is a new trajectory. So what’re you waiting for? Here are a few of my tips to get out of a rut.

  1. Create a routine and/or to do list and stick to it. This one is especially helpful if you’re struggling to find purpose in your days or stick to healthy habits. I find it helpful to put pen to paper in my planner. I outline my intentions and everything I want to accomplish in a day. Identifying what I want to do and actually doing it helps me believe in myself and builds momentum to help me out of the rut. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend something as simple as a guided meditation or a morning walk/run/bike ride. I find that these activities allow ideas to pop into my head and give me clarity on the path forward.
  2. .. Or don’t! Shake it up. This is helpful if the monotony of your routine is getting to you. Sometimes routine is freeing, sometimes it feels like a prison. If you’re feeling the latter: shake things up. When’s the last time you did something new for the first time? Get out there and do it! In a pandemic there might not seem like many opportunities to “get out there” but you could hike somewhere new, or sign up for a virtual class. It could even be as simple as picking up a different book genre and finding that you love it. While routine tends to bring me comfort and purpose, adding novelty to my days helps me feel like I’m “living life to the fullest”.
  3. Connect with loved ones. Sometimes all it takes it talking it out. Tell someone how you feel. I recommend specifically choosing someone you relate to, whose advice you value or who makes a good hype man! If we’re still in the pandemic when you need this, ask a friend to have a socially distanced or virtual coffee date or happy hour. We’re meant to communicate and connect with others – a little bit can go a long way when you’re in a tough spot.
  4. Treat yoself! Make today special. Pick up a nice bottle of wine, takeout from your favorite restaurant, whatever is a “treat” to you. Find a little reason to celebrate each week (maybe you checked off your to do list every day this week?). In my daily journaling I have a prompt: what am I doing to make today special? Often it’s little things like “a great workout” or “walking to get a Starbucks pumpkin cream cold brew”. Identifying those little opportunities in everyday life helps me have something to look forward to.

How do you get out of a rut?

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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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How (And Why) To Switch To Natural Deodorant

About a year ago I started exploring natural deodorant options to limit the amount of chemicals I’m putting on my skin. I had read about how traditional deodorant/anti-perspirant combos could interfere with hormones and decided it was worth it to try something new. I wish I had continued my research a little further, because then I would’ve also seen that there are steps to take to make the transition easier. Instead, I went cold turkey on my Secret deodorant and swapped it for a natural brand with some not-so-successful results. A year and multiple brands later, I can say I am very happy I made the switch. So don’t let the bad bits I start off with discourage you–read on, this story has a happy ending, I promise!

What’s Wrong with Regular Deodorant?

Most traditional deodorants are a combination of deodorant and anti-perspirant: designed to stop you from sweating and mask odor. Problem one is that you should sweat. It’s a natural function of the body, and to limit it can prevent the proper elimination of waste. In addition to that, some of the ingredients are questionable.

  1. Parabens. These preservatives used in deodorant may interfere with estrogen production and regulation. Given how close the armpits are to estrogen-sensitive tissue in the breasts, this was a risk I didn’t want to take, even without conclusive evidence.
  2. Aluminum. There have been similar links to aluminum deodorant and breast cancer, although again, without conclusive evidence. While waiting for that research to come in, it seemed worthwhile for me to switch.
  3. Phthalates. It’s suggested that Phthalates may be an issue among pregnant women as it can impact fetal development. Research has linked phthalates to lower IQs and higher rates of asthma.

While most of these are anecdotal and lack conclusive evidence, there is still a risk factor that I felt better mitigating. So, what did I find as problems when I pursued the natural route?

Hesitations About Natural Deodorant

  1. Initial skin irritation. After years of conditioning your skin to expect aluminum and parabens under your arms, it can take awhile for your skin to detox. That detox presents itself in the form of skin irritation, which happened to me. Read on for ways to combat this!
  2. Continued skin irritation. Just because ingredients are natural doesn’t mean your skin will agree with them. My skin had irritation/rashes well beyond the initial transition phase when I tried love, beauty, planet. This may work for you, but something in the ingredient list did not agree with me.
  3. Not as strong/doesn’t last as long/you may smell. Some varieties of natural deodorant wear off quickly or don’t mask B.O. as strongly as you may be used to. I found this issue with Native, and living in a climate where it is often hot and humid combined with working in the fitness industry.. this was less than ideal.
  4. Pricier. In this case, I think of it as an example of you get what you pay for. If you want something made with quality ingredients, you should expect to pay a little more for it (and when it comes to things I put in and on my body, I am willing to pay that price). Also–keep scrolling and you’ll see a discount for my favorite brand!

While these hesitations sound like a lot, I still felt better about using a safer option. So, how do you make this transition smoother?

Ways to Ease the Transition

  1. Detox your pits. I didn’t try this myself, but I trust anything Laurie Christine King recommends. See her detox recipe here.
  2. Don’t apply deodorant right after shaving. Some people shower and shave at night then apply deodorant in the morning. This was something I tried when I had continued skin irritation that I called out above. Broken skin that has just been shaved tends to react more harshly to anything applied to it. Ultimately, this wasn’t the solution for me and I now use a brand that I can apply right after shaving.
  3. Try different brands. I tried love, beauty, planet, then Native before ultimately trying Primally Pure. I had heard great things, but I’m conditioned to convenience and free shipping, so it took awhile for me to accept heading to a website other than Amazon to purchase–but I am SO glad I did.

Why Primally Pure?

A few months ago I tried Primally Pure charcoal deodorant and haven’t looked back. I have had 0 skin irritation since trying it, and it lasts all day without wearing off. I also love that it doesn’t have a strong scent attached to it. When I used to use regular deodorant, I often felt like the fake scent coming from my deodorant was as overpowering as B.O. would’ve been. Rather than a scent that “masks” B.O. I find I just don’t smell at all, which is quite a feat when fitness-ing in North Carolina.

I wasn’t sure if I had found something that just worked for me, but since making the switch and sharing my experience, I’ve heard from multiple people who were compelled to try it and had the same experience. After seeing how well it’s worked for me and friends, I reached out to become an ambassador (my first time approaching a company vs the other way around) and now you can get a discount with code STODDS at checkout.

If you decide to make the switch, I hope you learn from my mistakes and have a much smoother, shorter journey!

Do you use natural deodorant? What brands have you found success with? If you haven’t made the switch why not? What questions do you have about making the switch?

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3 Reasons I Love To Work For My Beer

One of my favorite things about this city is the overwhelmingly popular beer fitness scene and all of the balanced living enthusiasts that come with it. That’s why when I heard about Work For Your Beer – Charlotte’s hub for all things beer fitness – I knew I had to get involved.  There are few (if any) things that I love more than a nice adult beverage after a workout! So what exactly is Work For Your Beer?

Work For Your Beer is the place to go if you’re looking for beer fitness classes. This site serves as a guide for pub run clubs, brewery yoga classes, bootcamps that end with beer, and more (there are even dance classes — Twerk For Your Beer, anyone?). Outside of the super-helpful calendar that provides details for more than 100 beer fitness events/week, they also post interesting content. The blog shares beer releases and reviews, Charlotte-specific events, and topics that balanced living enthusiasts would relate to (read one of my personal favorites here). PS – if this sounds like your thing, sign up for the weekly brewsletter–you won’t be disappointed!

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Like this shirt? Enter code: christine15 at checkout on the Work For Your Beer site for a discount!

So, why am I so obsessed with being a Work For Your Beer brand ambassador? Find my top 3 reasons below:

  1. The workout variety. So many workouts, so little time (and money!). I love that the beer fitness scene allows you to vary your workouts, commitment-free, for a small price tag. Many of the pub runs are free (you just buy your own beer afterward), and classes are around $5 (which sometimes includes a beer!). So, you get to experience lots of different trainers and exercise styles for much cheaper than a membership or drop-in fee at most boutique studios! The variety of options is great for someone who likes all different kinds of fitness.
  2. The craft beers. Beer fitness is a great excuse to try different craft beers! In Charlotte, there’s no shortage of brewery options. Within walking distance of my apartment, I can go to Legion Brewing, Resident Culture, Catawba, Pilot, and more. It would be easy to fall into a rut of going to the breweries closest to me – but the fitness events offered at other breweries get me out there, trying new things! I’ve since figured out that my fave Charlotte beers are Birdsong Jalapeno Pale Ale and Wooden Robot Good Morning Vietnam.
  3. The community of people. Beer fitness events provide a great way to get out and be social on weeknights. I love being able to connect with people who I already know share two of my biggest loves! And meeting new people is so important to me, being new in town. To all my fellow beer-and-fitness-loving Queen City residents: message me to meet up at a class together!

I’d love to hear your favorite beers, breweries, and beer fitness events (Charlotte or not) in the comments!

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Sweaty Sunday Workout

Sundays call for sweating! And due to the endless rain in Syracuse, I took my workout to the gym in my apartment complex.

This 45-minute circuit mixes cardio with total-body strength moves.  Each move listed has a tutorial below to help guide you. Give it a try and leave me your thoughts in the comments!

Sweaty Sunday (1)

Renegade Rows with Pushup

Bicep Curls

Shoulder Press

Single Leg Deadlifts

Alternating Front Rack Lunges

Suitcase-hold Squats

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Establishing a Morning Routine

I recently made the switch from listening to the radio to listening to a podcast whenever I’m in my car. I’ve been flying through The Model Health Show on iTunes, and I’m amazed at how much time I was spending mindlessly listening to music I didn’t love when I could’ve been learning and motivating myself. I feel like I just discovered a huge life hack and I’m HOOKED on this habit! I think I’ll dabble into audiobooks soon too..

Anyway, one of the episodes of The Model Health Show I just listened to was about establishing a morning routine (listen here). I’ve always considered myself a morning person since I have to start my day with a workout, but this got me thinking. I wake up at 6:15 every (week)day, but what am I really doing in that 45 minutes before my crossfit class starts?

I make my coffee, pack everything for work, go to the bathroom, drink some water.. but I’m not really accomplishing anything. Those 45 minutes are valuable time that I could spend setting myself up for true success, every day.

Why should you establish a morning routine?

You know the saying “you run the day or the day runs you”? Knowing how your morning will look and going about it with purpose sets you up to run the day. Starting the day by checking your phone and replying to texts, emails, social, etc sets you up to run on someone else’s time, needs and desires. How can you accomplish your goals and be your best self without identifying your purpose for the day and executing on it?

Something else that really spoke to me was the part of the podcast that outlined the stress of being “on time”. I’m regularly “on time” for crossfit – meaning I’m rushing out the door, speeding down the highway, and running into the gym in my socks because I haven’t been able to change into my sneakers yet and can do so as the warmup is announced. That’s a highly stressful way to start my morning. After hearing this and acknowledging how it affected my own life, I knew I wanted to make a change.

Establish A Morning Routine (1)

What does my morning routine look like now?

Since I made this conscious shift, I started waking up a few minutes earlier and my morning now looks like this:

  • brew coffee
  • 5-minute meditation in the legs up the wall yoga pose
  • drink coffee while writing a gratitude journal (3 things I’m grateful for) and today’s purpose
  • drink at least 2 glasses of water
  • change into my gym clothes
  • gather my work bag, gym bag, and lunch bag (all packed the night before)
  • leave 5 minutes earlier than I used to so I am early instead of on-time
  • listen to a podcast on my drive to the gym

I find the gratitude journal and meditation to be so powerful when it comes to starting my day on the right foot. I feel more positive and in control with those simple additions.

One thing you may notice is missing from this list is breakfast. Since I workout at 7, I don’t have much time for digestion pre-workout. Coffee and water are necessary, but my high-protein breakfast has to wait until my workout is done.

This routine may shift as I figure out what I like and don’t like. I’d like to work in more goal setting, planning, and stretching down the road.

How do you go about establishing your own morning routine?

Ask yourself: What do your mornings look like now? What are you hoping to accomplish and get out of each day? There are so many different options for different people, but a simple place to start that is applicable to everyone is: drink more water. Even though you’re laying in bed for hours at night, your brain and body are doing so much and using water to do it. Start by replenishing your water stores for an immediate improvement in your day!

A quick Google search will also return plenty of articles where entrepreneurs and high-power CEO’s share their morning routines if you’re looking for additional inspiration!

Do you already have a morning routine that you love? Leave your feedback in the comments!

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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?