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! 

IMG_0522.jpg

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.

IMG_E0863.jpg

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

IMG_1385.jpg

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.

IMG_1235.jpg

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

IMG_0917.jpg

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.

IMG_0876.jpg

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! :)

IMG_0833.jpg

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.

IMG_0772.jpg

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! 

IMG_0687.jpg

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.

IMG_0681.jpg

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

IMG_0651.jpg

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

IMG_0653.jpg

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

IMG_0765.jpg

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?

Healthy + Simple Snacks

I had a reader request that I do a post on easy and healthy snacks / meals and I was so excited to see this request come in! Nutrition is a huge passion of mine and I could seriously talk about this all day! I'm going to split this into two posts -- one for meals and one for snacks to avoid this getting too lengthy! 

IMG_0753.jpg

I also want to share a bit of background info about how my diet has changed throughout the years -- however, if you're just here for the snacks (I don't blame you!), feel free to skip to the second half of this post.

I was a 90s kid, which meant we ate the typical 90s fad diet -- lots of processed foods and low-fat everything. Breakfasts were usually sugary cereal during the school week and then my mom would usually make French toast, pancakes / waffles, eggs, etc. on the weekends. I brought a lunch from home most of the time and it usually consisted of a jelly sandwich on white bread (I was super picky and didn't like PB on my sandwiches), pretzels or crackers (Cheez-Its, Goldfish, etc.), a Yoplait yogurt, and maybe a couple Oreos or some grapes -- this was washed down with a Hi-C juice box every day. The best day ever was when I'd open my lunchbox and there would be a pizza Lunchable in there -- score! We ate dinner each night as a family -- I remember that things like tator tot hotdish, chow mein, Hamburger Helper, and spaghetti being regular items on the menu. 

252924_507285419900_2541_n.jpg

Just for fun, here's a pic of me in 1st grade -- definitely rocking those 90s bangs!

Snacks were usually some sort of fruit snack, Chex mix, etc. after school. My absolute favorite after school snack was apples dipped in caramel sauce, which my mom usually made for us in the fall. I also remember eating a bowl of ice cream almost every evening before bed. As I'm typing this out, I'm realizing all I ate as a kid was sugar -- it's a miracle I didn't become diabetic by the 6th grade.

Fast forward to college -- I ate a lot of junk because hello, meal plan with tons of options and there was also a food court type place in the bottom level of the dorms that I lived in. This place served chicken strips, pizza, quesadillas, and a million types of ice cream treats -- plus it was all "free" because all you did was swipe your student ID to use your meal plan flex dollars. This was all fun and games until your new jeans feel a little snug.

I started eating healthier my sophomore year when I lived off campus (I lived with my grandpa and step-grandma and it was SO nice for my introverted (at the time) heart.) The dorm life was not my fave -- so much drama and no personal space. I lived at home my junior semester (I graduated early but that's a story for another day), and then got an apartment with a friend after I graduated that December. I started cooking more but didn't really have a concept of what was healthy or not. It wasn't until the following year that I started reading up on nutrition and began eating a clean and balanced diet.

This diet has evolved to what I eat today -- which is 90/10 clean eating. What this means is that 90% of the time my diet consists of whole, unprocessed foods, while 10% consists of treats (because hey, we all need an Oreo or four every now and then!). I stopped eating red meat in high school because the taste / texture bothered me and haven't eaten it since. I went vegetarian for the past year or two, but have recently brought chicken, turkey, and fish back into my diet.

Whew, that might be more than you ever wanted to know about my diet! Let's move on to some of my favorite healthy + simple snacks. I've always been such a snacker and tend to eat 5-6 smaller meals per day verses three larger meals.

Below are some of my favorites snacks that are in heavy rotation! 

IMG_0977.jpg

Energy Bites
I started making these last summer and I'm obsessed! They're cheaper and healthier than buying granola bars and it's so easy to switch up the recipe. Usually I stick with a PB, oats, honey, flax, chocolate chips version, but this week I decided to change things up a bit and did almond butter, shredded unsweetened coconut, peppermint extract, cocoa powder, oats, and honey.

IMG_0979.jpg

Fruit
I'd say about 75-80 percent of our weekly groceries consist of produce -- fresh and frozen are what we usually pick up (canned foods aren't my favorite).

IMG_0534.jpg

Veggies
I'm a million times more likely to eat veggies if they're already washed and cut -- it feels too daunting when you're starving to open the fridge and see the package of celery in there knowing it needs to be washed and cut. I also love pickles + olives, so a lot of times I'll throw a few of those in there as well. I prep a HUGE container of these every Sunday so all I have to do is grab a handful and toss it in a bowl or a little container to take with me.

IMG_0559.jpg

Banana + PB
This is a snack that never gets old -- I just slice up a banana and add a dollop of peanut butter. If I'm extra hungry, I'll put it on a piece of toasted Dave's Killer Bread or Ezekiel bread.

IMG_0562.jpg

Yogurt
I eat both the plain Greek variety and these fun little flavored cups, which have a good amount of sugar, but I figure that if this is the worst thing I'm eating all day, I'm doing okay!

IMG_9466.jpg

Homemade Popcorn
This has been a favorite of mine ever since I was a kid -- we use a popcorn maker similar to this one and it's super easy to make popcorn in the microwave (no oil needed!). I almost always top it with lots of pink Himalayan sea salt and melted butter.

IMG_0684.jpg

Nuts
We buy the big bags of pistachios and roasted almonds from Costco and they're the perfect snack! 

IMG_0723.jpg

Smoothies + Protein Shakes
These have endless combos -- some of my faves are:

  • Frozen strawberries + banana + almond milk
  • PB + chocolate whey protein + almond milk + ice
  • This mocha powder + chocolate whey protein + almond milk + ice
  • Frozen triple berry blend + splash of OJ + half of a banana + almond milk + spinach
IMG_0792.jpg

Healthy Dips
I love making homemade hummus, guac, or tzatziki dip for veggies! Definitely an easy way to sneak in some extra fat or protein! 

What are some of your favorite snacks?
Any topics you'd like me to do a blog post about?

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 11.16.02 AM.png

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 11.10.31 AM.png

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.

1.jpg

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.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 11.43.51 AM.png

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.

Face.jpg

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?

Eating Out

When Andy and I first started dating, we ate out a lot -- mainly out of convenience. We were living 45+ minutes apart at the time, so it was easier to just meet halfway for dinner. However, once we got married, we really reigned in the restaurant visits and started meal planning more intentionally.

static1.squarespace-2.jpg

Now, we typically go out to eat for three different occasions: 

1. It's some sort of birthday / celebration / the occasional date night
2. We're out and about for the day / evening and need to eat
3. Out with friends (happy hours with girlfriends, lunch dates with my auntie, etc.)

Other than that, we typically eat at home because it's a lot healthier. We buy groceries once per week and that lasts us until the next week. We also bring our own lunch to work 95% of the time.

IMG_7003.jpg

I don't like leaving a restaurant or evening out feeling stuffed nor do I enjoy waking up the next morning with feelings of regret. Sticking to my typical diet while out is an easy way to stay on track. Don't get me wrong, if it's a birthday or special occasion, I'll have a treat or order something different than usual, but 9 times out of 10, I tend to stick with what I know and like.

static1.squarespace-6.jpg

I'm also a huge advocate of balance -- and enjoy little treats here and there throughout my week. Sometimes it's a piece of candy after lunch, other times it's a bowl of ice cream while watching a show on a weeknight. I think that because I don't feel deprived during the week, I don't feel the need to "go all out" whenever we eat at a restaurant.

static1.squarespace-3.jpg

Beverages
I always order an ice water with lemon whenever we're out; I'm not a pop / soda drinker so it's easy for me to avoid those. I also rarely drink alcohol and when I do, it's usually when I'm out for a happy hour with girlfriends. My drink of choice on those evenings is almost always a glass of pinot grigio. 

Bread Baskets
If there's a bread basket, I'll usually skip it unless I'm absolutely starving. In that case, I'll have part of a piece of bread with some olive oil + balsamic, and leave the rest. On the other hand, if we go out for Mexican and there's chips and salsa, you'd better believe I'm participating in that because that's one of my favorite things. When we go out for Mexican, I like to enjoy the chips and salsa and then order a lighter meal -- like the veggie tacos or a salad. Since I had chips, I'll typically just eat the insides of my tacos and leave the shells behind. It's really all about balance.

static1.squarespace.jpg

Entrees
When it comes to ordering an entree, I like to still stick to my usual way of eating, which is clean and vegetarian with some treats thrown in for good measure. I almost always order a salad or soup unless it's somewhere like Lagos Tacos, where I'll order the vegetarian tacos. If we go out for pizza, I'll usually get a salad and then enjoy one slice of veggie or cheese pizza -- depending on where we are.

Dessert
It's rare that Andy and I will order dessert unless it's a birthday / anniversary, but if we do, then I'll be more conservative with my meal, if that makes sense. 

PS I'm linking up for Tuesday Talk today! 

What's your approach to eating out?
Favorite restaurant?

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! 

IMG_6679.jpg

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. 

IMG_6686.jpg

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! 

IMG_6688.jpg

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

IMG_6690.jpg
IMG_6694.jpg

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

IMG_6695.jpg

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.

IMG_6696.jpg

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.

IMG_6697.jpg

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! 

IMG_6703.jpg

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?