Healthy + Simple Meals

You guys know that I love living a healthy and active lifestyle -- it always makes me feel my best! I recently shared some of my favorite healthy + simple snacks and today I'll be sharing some healthy + simple meals! I'm also linking up with Sarah and Emily to chat about crock pot meals! 

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I prefer to eat a very fresh, simple diet -- most of my meals are composed of mixing a bunch of items I've already prepped (chopped veggies, cooked lean meats, etc.) rather than following complicated recipes. If there's something that I'd like to make -- take tomato soup for example since I just made that a few days ago, I usually just make it up as I go. I know that I like my tomato soups to have a little texture and have a lot a basil, so I roasted a huge pan of tomatoes, garlic, and onions, pureed it with veggie broth and tons of basil, and then seasoned it to taste (adding EVOO, oregano, and S&P) as it was simmering on the stove. 

For me, the key to making healthy + simple meals is meal prepping! I do this almost every Sunday afternoon to set myself up for success during the week. Veggies are washed and chopped, grapes are rinsed and put into a large container, sweet potatoes are sliced, and chicken / turkey / salmon (whichever is my protein of choice for the week) is cooked.

Below are some of the meals I've been enjoying lately -- they all were thrown together using items from my meal prepping and most don't take more than a few minutes to make.

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Deconstructed Greek Salad - leftover salmon from our Sunday dinner, romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, homemade hummus, homemade tzatziki.

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Roasted Veggie Bowl - refried organic black beans, homemade hummus, roasted veggies: zucchini, roma tomato, brussels sprouts, red onion. I paired this with a whole grain flax tortilla with hummus to give this meal a little more staying power.

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Avocado Toast - Toasted Ezekiel or Dave's Killer Bread, mashed avocado, a tomato slice, and a fried egg paired with fruit on the side.

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Thai Chicken Flatbread - Whole grain flat bread, topped with cheese, Thai-seasoned chicken, red cabbage, red peppers, carrots, green onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and drizzled with a homemade Thai peanut sauce. We love these flatbreads (they're at Costco) -- they're great for making wraps, quesadillas, burritos, and flatbreads.

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Omelet -- Egg white omelet filled with cheddar cheese and fresh avocado slices with fruit on the side. I have weird things about eggs and if I think about them too much, they freak me out -- especially the yolks. Due to this, I prefer egg whites to eggs most of the time since they taste less egg-y if thank makes sense! :)

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Baked Salmon + Veggies - Baked salmon (I top it with butter or olive oil and S&P before baking) and roasted veggies -- usually something green, some onions, and grape tomatoes. This is a meal that we usually make on Saturday or Sunday evenings when we're at home.

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Stir Fry - Veggies and chicken or turkey mixed with General Tso's stir fry sauce and topped with chopped almonds or peanuts for some crunch. I usually pair this with some bread or rice so it holds me over longer. I love making these when I need to clean out the fridge -- any veggie is great to add to the mix! 

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Salad + Chips and Salsa - I like to always have veggies, some sort of fat (cheese or avocado or nuts), and a protein on my salads. Most of the time I make my own dressings -- either a honey mustard one or a vinaigrette made with EVOO, lemon juice, vinegar, S&P. This meal is perfect for hot summer evenings.

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Buffalo Chicken Flatbread - Buffalo chicken, cheese, onion, tomatoes, romaine, and a drizzle of ranch.

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Oatmeal + Fruit - Old fashioned oats with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, chopped peaches, and a sprinkling of almonds for some crunch.

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Homemade Pizza - Multigrain flatbread topped with pizza sauce, mozzarella, sausage, and tons of veggies. Clearly we use these flatbreads all the time! 

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Packed Lunches - As far as lunches go, I almost always bring a wrap, soup, salad, or leftovers to work each day. Snacks for work always include a yogurt cup, a fruit, a veggie or two, and some almonds. 

Two of my blogging buddies are chatting about crock pot meals today and here's the thing -- I never use our crock pot! Ever! Andy uses it all the time to make a huge batch of chicken breasts every week, but I never use it. I don't eat a lot of meat and I haven't really experimented with crock pot recipes for other meals. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the other linked posts from today to get some ideas to try out this fall and for easy meals once baby is here! 

What are some of your go-to meals?
What do you usually pack in your lunch?

When You Don't Want to Work Out

January is here, and with that usually comes lots of New Year's Resolutions surrounding fitness and nutrition. I live a healthy and active life year round, so come January I'm not looking to get back into a routine, but sometimes trying to find motivation to go when it's 1. negative 13 degrees out and 2. the gym is filled with "January joiners" aka there's no parking, no lockers, and no machines open.

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I'm really thankful that fitness is something that comes naturally to me -- I feel my best when I move a little each day. Coupled with clean eating (and some treats thrown in for good measure), I feel like my health and fitness is balanced. As much as I love working out, sometimes binge watching Grey's Anatomy sounds more enticing, so how do I stay on track even when I don't feel like it? 

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1. Be Prepared
My gym bag is packed and in the backseat of my vehicle at ALL times. This makes it so convenient to always be ready to hit the gym. In my gym bag, I have my Nikes, favorite crops, sports bra, favorite socks, and a tank. I also always have my wireless earbuds.

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2. Drive Straight to the Gym
If I go home after work, it's game over. Once I walk through my front door, the chances that I'll change clothes and go back out into the freezing cold are slim to none. I swing by the gym before going home and before I convince myself that sitting on the couch with a bowl of homemade chili sounds more enticing.

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3. Accountability
My friend Jen is a fitness fanatic like me, so we often meet at the club that's on the way home from work for both of us. Even if it's just catching up for 20 minutes while on side by side ellipticals, having that accountability makes me less likely to skip my workout that night.

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4. Try Another Location
Our Life Time membership is one that allows us to visit clubs across the cities -- sometimes just visiting a different location makes such a difference. A change of scenery is all I need sometimes, especially when you're hitting the gym multiple times each week.

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5. Make a New Playlists
Music is key for my workouts -- I always make sure my headphones are charged (and keep a backup pair in my bag just in case). Making a fresh playlist gives me an additional boost to not only make it to the gym, but to power through my workout feeling strong. I use Apple Music and love the ability to customize playlists to choose from.

How often do you work out?
How do you motivate yourself to get moving?

Real Life: Balancing Your Hormones

Today's post discusses female health and hormones with a dash of TMI (if you know me, you'll know I'm an oversharer). If this isn't your thing, feel free to skip today's post and visit tomorrow to talk about planning for the holidays! 

Hormones are definitely one of those things that I haven't really thought about much and they ended up being one of those things that you don't realize how great it is to have them work properly until they don't. Kind of like how it's easy to take your health for granted and you don't realize how good it feels to feel good -- until you're sick.

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Due to a heck of a lot of stress (family, stressful job, and training for a fitness competition), my hormones got all out of whack beginning in May of 2014. At first I noticed some annoying symptoms -- hot flashes, acne all over my back and chest, and weight gain in my abdomen. The weight gain was weird for me because I've never really gained weight in my stomach before -- this was my first clue that it was hormonal.

I visited my primary care doctor and after some blood work, she said my hormones were a little off but nothing to be really concerned about since I was going through a stressful season of life.

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Long story short, the symptoms continued to get work as the stress increased. Along came insomnia, horrible water retention, and my hands, feet, and underarms were constantly slick with sweat. I was also experiencing irritability, constantly feeling frazzled / overwhelmed, and having irregular periods. I didn't sleep through the night for weeks at a time -- waking up at 3am almost every night and never falling back asleep. In addition, I felt so self-conscious because my hands were always bright red and burning hot / sweaty, as shown in the photo above.

Then, during a really hard month (August 2016), things hit their peak -- I was experiencing extreme fatigue, even more stress at work, and the worst part was that I had put on 17 pounds by Thanksgiving that year. I'm only 5' 3.25", so even just 5 pounds on my petite frame is very noticeable. I felt frumpy, fat, and gross. Oh, and constantly hot thanks to the hot flashes. I felt like i had nothing to wear and wasn't putting a ton of effort into my appearance because I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. None of my clothes fit -- even my underwear were too small which was an awful feeling! I cried at the drop of a hat (and I'm not a crier!) and felt overwhelmed at the smallest things such as going grocery shopping. 

I found a new primary care doctor and during our first appointment, it was through tears that I told her I didn't feel like myself anymore. She diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue and said I had also become estrogen dominant. We tried a conservative approach at first -- since my diet was already clean she had me focus on more rest, meditation, and this crazy regime where I'd sit in the sauna for 10 min, followed by a freezing cold shower for 3 minutes -- repeat 3 times a few times per week. There was zero improvement and by Christmas, I was so over it. 

In mid-January, I went back to her office and told her I couldn't do this anymore. I wanted my body, energy, and happiness back and was willing to do whatever it took. She wrote me a prescription for bio-identical progesterone cream and instructed me to really watch my stress levels. I started using the cream daily, while taking the week of my period off. After two weeks, I noticed that I felt like my head was more clear -- I didn't feel so frazzled like I had in the months prior.

I also took this and this which helped a little but I noticed the most success with the progesterone cream.

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A month later, I noticed that my clothes started fitting a little better. I went and bought a couple pairs of jeans before our spring break trip and had gone down a whole size. The acne cleared up and the hot flashes and sweating began to taper off.

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Not too long after that, I quit my job that was making me so unhappy. In the months that followed, the weight continued to drop off without me making any diet or fitness changes.

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This fall, the rest of the weight has come off putting me back at my happy weight -- the weight I was before all of the hormonal changes. The photos above were taken 9 months apart from one another -- hormones a mess on the left, and back to myself on the right! There is a 17 pound difference between these two photos, (which you can really see in my face), but the most important thing is that I feel like myself again! My confidence and energy / enthusiasm are back and it feels SO GOOD to feel like myself again! 

Here are the things that didn't work for balancing my hormones:

  • Working out like a madwoman
  • Constantly stressing over my body
  • Dieting

Here's what did work:

  • Implementing bio-identical progesterone cream
  • Managing my stress
  • Focusing on relaxation: meditation, essential oils, going for walks, etc.

Going through the past 3 years of having unbalanced hormones was so challenging and something that I wouldn't wish on anyone. If you're struggling with hormonal imbalances or have any questions, feel free to contact me! 

What's your favorite way to relax?
Ever overcome hormone issues before?

My Current Fitness Routine

Here's the thing -- ever since high school, I've been a very active person. You can read more about my fitness journey here, but today, I'm going to cover what I currently do to maintain a fit and active lifestyle.

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Andy and I have a couples' membership to Life Time Fitness; I may be a little biased due to the fact that I used to work there and have been a member for many years, but I think it's the best! 

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Now that I'm not working with a coach anymore and my fitness goals are much more relaxed (aka simply be active each day rather than training for a fitness competition), I typically follow this routine each week. I don't stress out if I don't hit the gym on a scheduled day -- I like to view it as a big picture scale and know that it all balances out in the end. Some days I just want to lounge around on the couch, while other days I'll go for a 2 hour hike and that's perfectly fine!

Walk 10k steps per day
I track this using my iPhone -- eventually I'd love to get an Apple watch -- but for now, this does the trick. I prefer to walk outside but if it's deathly humid out, or the depths of winter, I hit the treadmill or our local indoor track.

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Strength train 3x / week
I divide my workouts into the follow splits, with a different muscle group each of these three days I hit the gym:

Shoulders, triceps + chest
Legs (glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves)
Back + biceps

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In the past, I've worked with a personal trainer and a coach, which was SO helpful for learning about the different muscle groups, form, and exercises. I typically do the same exercises each workout for each muscle group and stick with the basics (for example, on a leg day: squats, deadlifts, weighted lunges, prone hamstring curls, calf raises, etc.). 

I've learned over the years that I have an ectomorph body type and it takes a lot of work to put on muscle mass. I've found that strength training regularly, eating enough protein, and lifting heavy weights with fewer repetitions rather than light weights with more repetitions provides the best results.

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Focus on being active
Even on days that I'm not at the gym, I strive for doing something active. Rollerblading, tennis, and hiking are some of my favorites. I'm not a huge fan of biking so it's rare that I'll do that. I also do cardio on an elliptical or stairstepper a few times a week. 

It might sound like I'm always at the gym, but many times I'll lift for 45 min and then do 30 min of cardio and call it a day. In and out in an hour and 15 min -- easy peasy!

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Once in a great while, I'll do a fitness class at the gym or lift with a friend, but overall I'm more of a solo workout person.

What's your fitness routine?
Do you have a gym membership or do you prefer to workout at home?

An Almost Record-Breaking Weekend

It was a hot one this past weekend -- we almost hit record-breaking temps due to highs near 90! Starting today, it looks like we're finally back to the cooler temps and I could not be more excited. I'm working for a bit this morning before meeting my auntie for a lunch date and then heading to a meeting later this afternoon but first wanted to recap our weekend! 

On Friday, I headed out to J.Crew and I'll be sharing my fall fashion finds on Thursday this week so be sure to check back! After the mall, I swung by Trader Joe's to pick up a few items -- including some pumpkin goodies such as my favorite pumpkin butter! This stuff is so good on everything! 

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Later that evening, we headed out for our weekly date night -- this time to Mall of America! We decided to hit the mall to walk around since it was so hot outside. 

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On the way there, we swung by the Volkswagen dealership to have our new license plates put on our new car. They ran it through the car wash while we were waiting inside, and it felt so good to start the weekend off with a clean car! 

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While walking through the mall, I told Andy I needed to stop at Bath & Body Works to smell all of their seasonal candles. 

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All of these smelled so good -- especially that cinnamon pretzel one! 

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After B&BW, we passed by the Lindt store -- they were passing out pumpkin spice truffles, so of course we had to try one of those! They were good, but I think this flavor is my favorite.

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We browsed through the fall collection and sale room at J.Crew (I was at their factory store earlier that day), but left empty-handed. The sale room is definitely hit or miss.

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There was also an event going on in the main rotunda to celebrate the launch of Fuller House season 3 -- there were so many bean bags spread out across the floor for shoppers to watch a few episodes. Super random! 

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After walking around for a bit, we each grabbed a snack -- I went with my favorite concoction (Birthday Cake Remix) from Coldstone. Not healthy in the least bit, but I enjoy ordering it every once in awhile for a special treat.

We wandered around for a bit more before calling it a night and heading home. It was crazy how hot it was when we left the mall around 9pm -- I told Andy that whenever it's over 85 degrees and humid late at night, it always reminds me of Hawaii! I feel like their temps don't really dip down as far overnight like ours usually do.

Saturday and Sunday were pretty low key -- a few trips to the gym, small group, and dinner at my Grandpa's house. It was hot, so we stayed inside for the majority of the weekend -- here's to hoping that yesterday was the last hot day of the year! 

PS I'm linking up with Biana today.

Favorite candle scent?
What's the weather like where you live?