Healthy Brunch at Home

“Healthy brunch?”  You may say, “Is there such a thing?”  Why, yes, there is.  As much as I love a bottomless mimosa brunch at those swanky D.C. eateries I enjoy, my wallet-and my waistline- can’t afford such a thing every weekend.  So, sometimes I have to get creative and make some gourmet looking yet tasty breakfasts at home.  Here are some brunch ideas (all 21 Day Fix approved) that are easy to make on those weekend mornings you just feel like staying in. Continue reading “Healthy Brunch at Home”

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8 Fun Ways to Workout with Kids

Whether you have little kids yourself, in your family, or you occasionally babysit them, you have the perfect opportunity to add some extra fitness to your routine.  Kids are like new phones; their batteries are extra long lasting, they have so many features that it takes you forever to learn them all and when you do they upgrade to the newest model and you have to start all over again.  Luckily, in my experience most children in the toddler/preschool/early elementary range like two things: 1) playing make believe and 2) silly adults.  With these two things you can get your exercise in and entertain children (particularly necessary on a rainy winter day like today) in the process.  My kids like when I show them my yoga moves, and there are definitely some that can be done together, but these animal inspired fitness moves are a little more cardio and much more silly.

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Make your best chicken face, flap your elbows, and hop from foot to foot, making sure your knees stay high and your abdominals are tucked in.

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After practicing your roar and sharpening your claws, stalk your prey and jump into a squat, like you are sitting in a chair, with your knees tracking behind your toes.

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Stand with your feet wide and turned out, chest up and abdominals pulled in, knees behind toes and squat down to put your fingers on the ground.  Hop around returning to this position.

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This variation on a sumo squat is a great workout for your quadriceps.  Stand in the same position as the frog hop, but keep your back straight and walk around like this, possibly chasing the kids you threaten to tickle with your crab claws.

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This balance move possibly comes after you’ve been flying around the room after the kids, like when they won’t put their clothes on.  Perch for as long as you can on one leg and then switch, provided the kids don’t come by and knock you over.

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When you’re too tired of cardio and too inflexible for bow pose, a nice fish curl helps to stretch your back out.  You can add some arm workout by crawling away on your stomach as they run over to climb on your back.

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Sleeping snake is a nice stretch to make the kids think you’re not paying attention until they get near and then you can strike, catching them with the element of surprise.  They’ll never see it coming.

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This is the pose that best describes the end of a long day of “animal” wrangling.  Usually I’ve been tackled by my two enough that this is exactly how I feel.

Whether you fully channel your inner animal or just use these moves to invite your children to play, you can always engage in the play of children to get some extra workouts in.  In the big scheme of things, it’s the play they’ll remember.

If I Can Help Somebody

As a long time choral singer in some fabulous choirs, I have been rather fortunate to sing in some special concerts.  In both high school and college I was able to sing beautiful music in wonderful international venues around the world.  Of my special choir memories, I remember singing the reverential “Beautiful Savior” in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, and the Duruflé Requiem in Carnegie Hall, and the Mozart Requiem in the Sydney Opera House; I also remember with tears singing “Deep River” in my college choir room the evening after my friend and fellow choir member passed away suddenly.  Our grief as a collective could only be brought forth in song, and our very souls were in the notes that poured forth that night, music crying more passionately than tears ever could, sending our sorrow and our anger and our hope from our spirits to the beautiful soul who left the world, going into the ether that only music can reach.

Last night I was privileged to be singing in the Kennedy Center as a part of a multi-choral, multi-generational, multi-racial tribute concert to honor the spirit and life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  It is an annual concert that started the year after Dr. King’s passing, and last night’s performance was one that will be filed in my memory of truly special performances.  There were several times when the music was so potent that I was in tears, feeling the same sorrow and anger and hope of a people whose culture is rife with burdening the injustices and hurts this country has put upon them.  Since I’m white in appearance (yet half Hispanic), come from a middle class family and have lived a relatively comfortable life, I cannot fully relate to the struggles and culture of my American friends of African descent.  But I recognize the music.  I recognize the chords of pain, of grief, of loss, of anger, of compassion and of hope.

The 2016 Humanitarian Award winner Bryan Stevenson who was honored last night made a passionate appeal that deeply resonated with me.  He reminded us that we need to talk about and be involved in those issues that make us uncomfortable, because nobody changed the world by doing what was comfortable.  The injustices of the world won’t go away if we close our eyes to them, instead our vision becomes feeble and when we are finally forced to open our eyes again the world will look wholly unfamiliar.  We need to be out there doing, saying, recognizing and educating everyone, reminding them that things can be fixed if we as a people can some together to say, “Things are broken.  People are hurting.  We need to put first our humanity and then our pride to fix the system that keeps disenfranchising the minority, the impoverished and the weakest in our society.”  Our country is chronically ill and we need to get healthy again.

Last night reminded me of why I love the things I do.  I love singing because I love that music transcends all boundaries to touch the hearts of the people listening.  I love being a mother because I love sharing my heart and life with those unblemished souls who can learn how to become better people that I ever hope to be.  My dream is to one day open a health and wellness center so that people can feel their best, body mind and soul.  That lead me to becoming a Beachbody coach, motivating and inspiring others who struggle with getting healthy the way I did.  But more importantly, I am reminded that healthy individuals make healthy decisions, and healthy people can breathe life into a dying society.  I want to become more of an activist facing the injustices I see around me.  I really do.  But, while I figure out how best to do that, I’ll devote my time to inspiring people into health.  Not just weight loss, but real, life-changing health.  That is my passion.  The song in which we ended the concert summed up my revelation nicely:  “If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he is trav’ling wrong, then my living shall not be in vain.”

 

 

Foodie Friday: guilt free tuna salad

Growing up, one of my comfort foods was a tuna salad sandwich.  You probably know the kind.  A can of tuna, heap of mayonnaise and diced dill pickles on white bread.  When people think of tuna salad sandwich, that is most likely the image in their head.  Some people hate it, but others- like me- love it.  When I became an adult, there were times when I’d want a tuna melt, so I’d make that sandwich (except on whole wheat to make it a tad healthier) melted with cheddar in a panini press.  Yum!  Except, not healthy.

Tuna, by itself, is very healthy.  It’s low in fat and high in protein, an excellent source of omega-3’s, vitamin D and selenium.  Because I like to add fish to my diet, I wanted to find a way to make healthy options for tuna consumption and create a new comfort food.  Since no one in my household but me likes pickles, we never have them around anymore and mayo is not calorie efficient in my weight loss efforts (even when I make my own from scratch).  After some searching online I found a healthy Tuscan Tuna Salad recipe from Epicurious that I used as my base.  Nowadays, I create my own depending on what I have in the house at the time, and I’ll give you the fundamentals on how to create your own stellar tuna salad.      Continue reading “Foodie Friday: guilt free tuna salad”

Tex Mex Casserole (21 Day Fix approved)

Being a Texan and living far away from the border means that I don’t get all the Tex Mex food that I love.  Don’t get me wrong- there are many good places that can be found, but the searching process is much more intricate.  Also being half-Mexican, I am lucky in that I gained some wonderfully authentic Mexican recipes from my late abuela.  However, sometimes I’m in the mood for some quick and Tex Mex like tacos, enchiladas, or fajitas.  This casserole is a little bit of everything and is healthy to boot!   Continue reading “Tex Mex Casserole (21 Day Fix approved)”

3 Day Refresh: lighten up

After finishing the 3 Day Refresh, I feel…lighter.  I lost 1.8 lbs during the 3 days, but more surprisingly, I lost an inch in my chest, waist and hips, plus at least half an inch in my arms and thighs.  I went through the program step by step, eating berries or apple with my Shakeology in the morning, the mid morning fiber sweep, a salad with my vanilla shake at lunch, hummus and veggies and tea during the afternoon, and a side of veggies with my dinner vanilla shake.  Plus, LOTS of water throughout the day.  Seriously, I had a 64 oz container filled with water that I drank and refilled many times over the last 3 days.  Here are opinions, comments and recommendations of using this specific detox.

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My 64 oz water buddy

Continue reading “3 Day Refresh: lighten up”

Foodie Friday: Sweet, Healthy Valentine’s Treats

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and with it the temptation for sweets, treats, and all things decadent.  While I’m a fan of decadence, in moderation, it’s gotten me in trouble in the past.  I don’t know if you can relate to mindlessly eating everything in one of those giant Russell Stover heart shaped boxes within a matter of days..well, I can and it isn’t pretty.  For those of you for whom the sweet side of the day isn’t a terrible temptation, enjoy a giant heart with my blessing.  For others who, like me, would rather feed themselves and their loved ones something a little more healthy yet still tasty, I have a few recipes below to satisfy a sweet tooth and still tell your loved ones that you care.

Strawberry Heart Cinnamon Toast     1 serving

1 slice whole grain bread

1 strawberry

1 tsp peanut or almond butter

1 tsp honey

sprinkle of cinnamon

To make the strawberry hearts: With the top still on, slice the strawberry vertically from top to bottom.  Once it is sliced in half, make a small “V” shape to cut out the leaves.  Once the “V” is cut, round out the top points to make it fully heart shaped.  Then, slice the strawberry heart vertically again to make it thinner and gain another, smaller heart.

Toast the bread in the toaster.  Spread the peanut butter on the toast.  Sprinkle cinnamon on top of the peanut butter.  Cover with strawberry hearts.  Drizzle with honey.

My kids like it just like this, but I like to toast it again in my toaster oven at 375° for 3-4 min.

Apple Pie Cups     12 servings

1 pack won ton wrappers

2 large apples, shredded or diced finely

2 Tbs melted coconut oil

2-3 Tbs honey or maple syrup (depending on how sweet you prefer)

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (you can also add 1/2 tsp of nutmeg, allspice, or cloves)

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 400°.  In a medium bowl add diced apples, coconut oil, honey, spices and salt.  Stir until well mixed.  Set aside.  In a well greased muffin tin place one won ton wrapper in each cup and push down to line the muffin cup, careful not to break it.  Scoop the apple filling into each cup.  Bake for 10 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Let cool for a few minutes before carefully pulling each won ton out of the muffin tin.

Coco-Cocoa Fruit Smoothie     2 ten-twelve ounce servings

1 cup coconut milk (the full fat kind, preferably organic)

1 banana

3 strawberries (plus a couple for decoration if desired)

2 Tbs protein powder* (I use a hemp powder to add protein and omega 3’s to my kid’s smoothies)

1 Tbs cocoa powder

1 Tbs honey or sweetener of choice (or to taste)

1 cup ice

*optional

Blend in blender until thick and creamy.  Garnish with strawberry hearts if desired.

 

**Bonus**

 

Check out the Team Beachbody website if you want more ideas for clean eating treats.  I for one plan to make these chocolate Fudge Avocado Brownies on Sunday for my Valentine’s Day treat.

 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

3 Day Refresh

Today is the day!  I’m starting the 3 Day Refresh program from Beachbody.  I’ve been doing well with 2 rounds of the 21 Day Fix, losing 16.6 lbs and 10.25″ and staying on track with eating and exercise.  This is the first time I can say that I’ve exercised every day since the beginning of the year!  I ordered the 3 Day Refresh as a part of a challenge pack with my Shakeology order and decided to use it right before round 3 to make sure I look fabulous in my Valentine’s party dress next week.  (I’ll post pictures; don’t worry.)

The 3 Day Refresh is a detox program comprised of nutritious shakes and drinks made by the Beachbody nutritionists to give optimal cleansing to your system.  Unlike a juice fast, the drinks provide the right amounts of protein and fiber to help keep you feeling full and not put you body into starvation mode.  Aside from the provided shakes and my already owned Shakeology packets, there is a list of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats to eat, as well as a dinner menu to choose from to make this easy.  Below is my menu for the next 3 days.  After I finish, I’ll post my results and pictures with my honest opinions of how I felt about doing this and if I think I’ll do it again. Continue reading “3 Day Refresh”

“King Cake” Shake- Shakeology

Happy Mardi Gras today everyone!

Though I grew up in Texas, I went to college in Shreveport, Louisiana and spent those 4 years traveling all over the state, eating wonderful home cooked Cajun food straight from the kitchen, listening to well played jazz and zydeco, admiring the hanging moss and plantations hidden around the bayous, and just reveling in the culture with the friends I made while living there.  (I didn’t personally run across any gators though…yet.)

I remember leading up to the first mardi gras my freshman year, when all my native Louisianan friends started getting excited about king cake and parades and beads; I had no idea what was in store.  For someone not from the region, there is quite a bit with which to catch up.  I’ll give you a little lesson, and then a recipe.

Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday” is the last party before Ash Wednesday, the first of 40 days leading up to Easter in the Christian tradition.  This 40 day season known as Lent is a time when Christians usually give up bad habits or choose to be particularly mindful of their actions and attitudes, adding fasting, praying or meditation into their daily routine.  The individual choices vary widely in how people choose to celebrate, but those who celebrate Mardi Gras (also known as Carnivale in Europe), for religious or cultural reasons, they are celebrating Lent’s bachelor party, indulging in the sweets, treats, revels and dare I say-debauchery- as a last hoorah before pious living.

Whether or not you celebrate Mardi Gras, you can enjoy this guilt-free King Cake Shake all year round (even during Lent) to remind you to let the good times roll!

King Cake Shake

1 packet or scoop Vanilla Shakeology

1 cup almond milk

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp butter extract or ghee (ghee is healthier but butter extract is lower in calories)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp honey or sweetener of choice (I like agave nectar)

1 cup ice

sprinkles in purple, green and gold  (symbolizing justice, faith and power)

  • Blend together all but sprinkles.
  •  Sprinkle a little of each color in the bottom of damp Shakeology cup; pour in shake
  • Sprinkle colors on top and enjoy!

 

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Road trip to health

We’ve all heard the cliché, “Patience is a virtue,” but when it comes to reaching a goal, all I want to do is get there NOW.  In an instantly gratified society I’m tempted to reach for the new “best new product” or “quick fix” when it comes to weight loss.  I spent years indulging myself and ignoring the advice of my body, why should I spend time and effort to fix the problem when I can just take care of it with the latest fad?  What is the catch?  The catch is: you won’t learn your lesson with a quick fix and the cycle will continue.

True, lasting change comes from growth.  I’ve spent years knowing what is good for me.  I knew the foods I should eat and why.  I knew I should eat them in smaller portions.  I knew I should be getting exercise on a daily basis and get a routine going.  I knew I needed to reign in my stomach and my wallet because what I was doing was not good for me.  Knowing and doing are two very different things.  Sometimes I would do.  I’d eat right some of the time and exercise a little bit.  I’d start a program and like it until something distracted me, or I got sick/injured, or it was someone’s birthday and I HAD to eat a piece of cake…and that brownie…and that latte the next morning…and the week after that.  (You see where this leads.)  I could have used a pill or a crash diet or surgery-some people have great results with those things- however my understanding from the people with whom I’ve spoken use those things to avoid the change, skipping the growth.  The people I know who have had the most success are the people who start small, one step at a time, until that one action becomes a habit, and those habits link together to form a routine, and whose routines continue to expand until they create the fabric of their lifestyle.  These are a few of the nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned and am trying to implement into my own life and daily choices:

  1.  Create a road map to your goal.  When you’re taking a trip, you don’t just click your heels and go from Maryland to California.  You look at a map, figure out which route your going to take, pick the cities you’re going to stop in, and plan how long it is going to take to get there.  For example, don’t just say, “I’m going to lose 60 pounds.”  Say, I’m going to lose 60 pounds by this date next year.  That gives me 2 months to lose each 10 lbs, so I plan to be x weight by one month,  x weight by two months, etc.
  2. Pick the best mode of transportation.  Everyone has a different preference when it comes to, well, everything.  Eating well and exercising is no exception.  I am not a runner.  I want to like it, but it is just not my thing.  (One day I WILL complete a 5k, but that is a different mountain I need to climb.)  I like zumba, I LOVE yoga (when I can afford to go to a studio), and I love my Beachbody workouts (like the 21 Day Fix) from the convenience of my home. Find what works for you and do it.  Which way will get you to your destination the best?  Would you rather take a scenic drive or a nonstop flight?  Which one can you see yourself sticking with for the duration of the journey?
  3. Find people who will travel with you.  One of the reasons I am doing so well right now on my fitness journey is because my Beachbody coach and support group is amazing.  Having the right amount of accountability-and let’s be honest, someone to bitch to every once in awhile- can be the difference between sticking with a program and falling off the wagon.  Sometimes I’ve been too scared to share my goals and struggles in the past because of how I thought people would perceive me.  Lately I’ve realized that we need to share, because so many people out there are going through the same things and need to know that they are not alone.  Sometimes we need people to engage on our trip instead of just sleeping beside us in the car the whole way.
  4. Stop and appreciate the surroundings every once in awhile.  There are some people who like to go nonstop from point A to point B with tunnel vision on and are disciplined enough to stay focused the whole time.  I am not that person.  I love spontaneity, hate routines, and get bored with monotony.  Though planes get me places faster, I love car trips.  I love seeing the landscape change and getting to intimately know the road I’m traveling.  On my weight loss journey, I’ve been keeping a list of the positive changes I see daily to remind myself that progress is being made-even when I can’t tell from a mirror or a scale.  Those minor victories may be stops on the way to my destination, but by acknowledging them, by embracing the change instead of just seeing how far I still have left to go, I learn to keep moving forward so I can see how far I’ve come.

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    I’m finally able to bind a side angle pose!
  5. Learn how to navigate detours.  For me this is the hardest step, but the most important.  There will always be a reason to quit-and excuse to hinder my progress.  I have a weight chart from the last couple of years that looks like a mountain range with gradual drops and steep inclines.  There was always something that got in my way and caused me to backslide.  If you’re traveling and make it a quarter of the way across country and hit a traffic jam or get a flat tire are you just going to turn around and head home?  No!  Learning how to accept the obstacle, find a way around it, and keep going is paramount.  Knowing that a detour is not a road closure means you can still get there, even if you have to do some creative problem solving to make it.

 

     Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination.  Though my goal right now is to lose weight, my journey to health will last me a lifetime.  With the right tools and support, I look forward to enjoying that path, leading me toward new goals I haven’t even dreamed yet.  Don’t limit yourself when you can explore new possibilities every day.