Category Archives: Green Living

Quest & Ignite Naturals

I hope everyone has been having a great week so far! This is “busy season” at work for me, so I’ve been working longer hours, and the last thing I want to do when I get home is look at a computer screen. Although I haven’t been posting as much, I’ve been sticking with my routine of Body Pump classes, yoga, and lots of home-cooked meals! With the change in weather, I’ve become more of a hermit than usual and I’ve spent much of the past few weekends hanging out at home, watching some shows/movies, and working on going through stuff around the house to find stuff to donate to the Salvation Army.

A few times a year, I like to dig through my clothes, shoes, purses, etc and donate things that I’m not using to the local Salvation Army. It’s a habit my mom instilled in me when I was younger and it continues to this day. Lately, I’ve taken this habit to a new level as I’m trying to declutter and simplify my entire life. I’m making a conscious effort to cut down on the material stuff around me in favor of more important things. Basically, if something isn’t being used around my house then it’s getting kicked to the curb (literally, in some cases). I’ve made some ruthless cuts to my movie and book collections, and I’ve steadily copied all my CDs into iTunes and gotten rid of the hard copies (seriously – when was the last time I played a CD?!). Some of the CDs are being donated, but a good chunk I was able to sell on the website Music Magpie which I have had a very positive experience with. I didn’t get much for the CDs (about $.50 each) but it’s better than nothing! My next big step is to get rid of my stereo. I’ve had the stereo since high school, and probably haven’t turned it on in 4 years. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just sort of outdated in our MP3 and Bluetooth culture. I haven’t decided yet if I should try to sell it or just donate it to the Salvation Army. I have a feeling selling it would be more trouble than it’s worth – does anyone buy stereos anymore? Thoughts?

Stereo Issues

On a completely different note, I wanted to share my thoughts on two companies with you: Quest, and Ignite Naturals.

Recently, through my affiliation with Sweat Pink Ambassadors, I got a chance to try a free sample of Quest bars.

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I was super excited for the opportunity because I had seen Quest bars before, but never stopped to read the label and realize that they are some pretty clean bars! These protein bars are made from real ingredients, with the addition of protein powder (which I think of as processed). I tried the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough one after Body Pump on Tuesday night and really enjoyed the flavor. The texture was a little on the chewy side, but it wasn’t unpleasant – just not what I was expecting. I prefer to get my protein from whole-food sources, but these bars could be a great (portable!) addition in a pinch!

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Now, onto Ignite Naturals. A while back (like 6 months ago), Ignite Naturals contacted me and offered me a free sample of their product Ignite Naturals Refresh in exchange for me filling out a survey about the product. I fell in love with both Refresh and Ignite Naturals, and have been buying their products ever since! The company is dedicated to whole food, non-GMO, healthy nutrition for active lifestyles. I love them so much, I also joined Team Ignite – which basically means that I get to share an awesome coupon code with all of you! Using code IN0690 will get you 10% off any Ignite Naturals purchase. Disclaimer: while my first sample of Refresh was free, I received no compensation for this post, I wasn’t required to write it as a part of my partnership with Team Ignite, and all opinions are my own! I just truly love these products!

Ignite Naturals Refresh is an electrolytes powder meant to help refresh and rehydrate your bodies. The best part is – it’s made from real food ingredients! I’ve tried the Tangerine Passion Fruit and Prickly Pear flavors and really enjoyed them both although Prickly Pear is more my speed since it’s not sweet at all. It easily dissolves in water, and is perfect for those super-long sweat sessions like Body Pump or Cycling class where you just need something a little more than water. In addition, the company makes gels, protein powders, and other nutritional aids so definitely check them out! 🙂

Don’t forget: coupon code IN0690 gets you 10% off any Ignite Naturals purchase.

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Happy August 1st!

August is here! I can’t believe the summer is almost at an end. Even though it will be hot and humid around here through September (and with our unpredictable weather, possibly later than that), I still think of the start of September as the end of summer. I guess it’s still the “school year” calendar at work even all these years after I’ve left school. The summer went by so quickly! I think it’s because of all the races, concerts, trips, and other fun that jam-packed my schedule. Luckily, the month of August is a little calmer so I’m going to try to take some time to relax and enjoy what is left of the warm weather and long days.

I’m also sad to change the month on my calendar. This month’s picture is pretty legit.

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The month of August is also the last month before I officially start 10k/half marathon training. I’m going to keep my running to a minimum during this month, as I don’t want to burn myself out before I even start. I’m going to take this opportunity to enjoy going to Body Pump twice a week, as come September I’m going to have to give up one day (so sad!). I’m really nervous about starting training because I haven’t been feeling as “into” running lately. But running a half marathon is a goal that I’ve coveted for while – so I feel like it’s worth it to bite the bullet and spend some serious time training in order to do it right.

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Waiting at the end of August is also Labor Day weekend – and my mom is coming up to visit me! 🙂 I’m super excited about this. I have been down to Chesapeake to visit my family several times over the summer, but my mom hasn’t been up to visit since sometime last year (or maybe early this year – I don’t remember exactly when, but it’s been too long!) This means we can visit all the restaurants we’ve been talking about, and finally take a trip to the National Zoo like we’ve been talking about since I moved to DC over four years ago. My mom and I are really close and I can’t wait to see her!

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I’m also going to take the month of August to get my budget back on track. I notoriously spend too much money at the grocery store, which is why I always have way too much food in my house. To finally get my grocery budget out of the whole, and to lessen the sheer amount of food in my cabinets and fridge – I’m going to use the month of August to focus on eating what I already have on hand instead of buying more stuff at the store. I’m going to let myself buy the perishable necessities (i.e. milk, eggs, fresh greens for my daily smoothie) but I’m going to really cut back on everything else. Hopefully this will lead to some kitchen-creativity – which means new recipes for you! 🙂

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Seriously, I’m going to deplete these “stocking up for the apocalypse” stores

What do you have planned for the month of August? Any races/vacations/big events coming up? Any new goals you’re setting for yourself this month?

Health Motivation

In the same fashion as my post on fitness motivation, I wanted to share some of my favorites facts and sayings that help motivate me to eat healthy. Once again you can find all my fitness motivations, health motivations and more on my Pinterest boards. Please follow any or all of my boards to keep up with all the fun! 🙂

One of my favorite “healthy sayings” is “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels!” and I find it to be so true! I haven’t seen that one in pretty picture format like the ones below though!

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Please share any of your favorites in the comments below!

Make Sure Your Snacks Are Healthy … Not “Healthy”

This couldn’t be more true! I can’t tell you how often I have this conversation with family, friends and co-workers. Organic, whole foods are the way to go – not processed, packaged foods that are trying to lure you into thinking they’re healthy with marketing!

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I feel like I’m constantly having the conversation with my parents about foods being actually healthy, or just appearing that way. My dad is usually the main offender – he’ll be convinced something is “healthy” because the front label is screaming “low fat” or “only XX calories.” What I always need to explain is that low fat doesn’t necessarily equal healthy … especially when there is extra sugar and empty carbs used to make up for the taste.

Keep in mind that a little fat is not bad for you – as long as it’s the good kind of fat – and that sugar (often used to replace the fat to keep taste), though naturally fat-free, is like any other calorie – if it doesn’t get used, it will be converted to fat. And let’s be honest … as a society, we eat WAY more sugar than we should (and…

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Happy Friday! And Upcoming Orlando Vacation!

This week has gone by so slowly – doesn’t that always happen when you have something at the end of the week that you’re really looking forward to? Tonight I fly to Orlando with two of my best friends for a four day vacation. I’ve been looking forward to this for months and I am so excited it’s finally here! Our main motivation (besides a vacation in the beautiful Florida weather) is to see ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ at Universal Studios but we’re also planning on going to three Disney parks – the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. This will be my first visit to Universal Studios, but Disney World has been a regular vacation for my family throughout the years. Although this will be my first visit to Magic Kingdom since I was about 12 or so, and they did just finish the newest part of the park – Fantasyland! I am very blessed that my Uncle works at Disney World so we get a great family discount on our room at the Disney All-Star Music Resort as well as free tickets into the [Disney] parks. For three twenty-somethings going on vacation, that has been a real blessing. And we scored a cheap flight (and a direct flight!) through a sale on Travelzoo. All these things combined have made for a very affordable vacation for us. And of course the opportunity to completely ‘nerd-out’ at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is priceless! Wand shop, here we come! 🙂

This vacation will be my first big trip since I changed to a clean eating lifestyle. While I know I won’t be tempted to eat any fast food (and we won’t really be around any), I know it’s going to be a challenge to make healthy eating choices when every meal for four days is going to be eaten out. I’m especially going to miss having my green smoothie every morning for breakfast. It really starts my day off on a good note and makes me feel energized. I think as a substitute I’m going to try to eat a big bowl of fruit for breakfast – and resist the urge to eat pancakes/waffles/French toast every day! I know I’ll feel better in the long run because of it. I’ve also seriously thought about what to do for my Meatless Monday. I’ve been keeping Meatless Monday going for a few months now, and I don’t really want to break the streak – but Monday is also the day we’re going to Universal Studios (i.e. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and Universal City Walk for dinner which is home to some wonderful restaurants, most notably Emeril’s. And I’ve been dying to eat at Emeril’s for years. Quite a conundrum. I’ve decided to play it by ear – try to make vegetable-based choices throughout the day – but not pass up any opportunities while I’m there. I feel like I’ll end up eating meat that day so as penance I’ll do a meatless day or two when I get back on Wednesday. There is a recipe for curried lentils and chickpeas (in the crock pot!) that I’ve been absolutely dying to try so that will be my first big meal when I get back, and it’s already something I’m looking forward to! I don’t think of Meatless Monday as a punishment, but rather as an exciting opportunity to find new things to eat.

I’ve also worried about keeping up my new fitness schedule on vacation. Last week, I wrote about how I’m sort-of, kind-of starting to become a runner. I ended up running 3.1 miles on four days last week, and capping the week off with a body pump (weight lifting) class on Saturday. Boy was I sore on Sunday! (And Monday too, to be completely honest.) I think I may have over-done it a little bit on my first week out. I mean, going from running zero miles each week for years – to running 12.4 miles in one week is a little extreme in retrospect. And I had the sore arms, legs, knees, etc. to prove it. So this week I did two days running 1.5 miles, and one day running 3.1. That was a little light on the distance in my opinion, but I didn’t want to be sore or hurt for all the walking around I’m going to do at Disney/Universal. I’ve decided I’m not going to do any extra running/walking on this vacation because pretty much all day every day is going to be spent walking around the parks. I wish I had a pedometer so I could track all the mileage we’re going to rack up! And then next Saturday it’ll be back to body-pump class to get back in the swing of things.

Has anyone else been to Magic Kingdom or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? What are your ‘must-see’ places?

What are your tips and tricks for staying fit and healthy on vacation?

Clean Eating: Things I Always Have…In My Spice Cabinet

Today I’m continuing my ‘Clean Eating’ series and moving into the spice cabinet. For me, my spice cabinet is also where I keep my tea, oils, vinegar, and honey so “spice cabinet” or sort of a loose designation. Because of this, there aren’t a lot of actual spices or herbs in this list. Needless to say, I have a full spice rack where I keep dried herbs like thyme, basil, and oregano and also have multiple ground spices on hand that I use frequently such as cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika and curry powder. Those are probably my most frequently used herbs and spices – but here are five other “must haves” that I keep in that cabinet.

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1. Homemade Taco Seasoning.
I wrote about my love (and the recipe) for my homemade taco seasoning in this post. But it bears repeating here. This seasoning blend combines some of my favorite spices in the cabinet, and adds an instant Tex-Mex feel to any number of foods. I not only use it to season taco filling (beef, turkey, pork, chicken, lentils, etc) but also as a rub on chicken or steak and as a seasoning to canned black beans. I do not include granulated onion or garlic in my seasoning mix because I usually use fresh onion and garlic in with whatever I’m cooking; however, if you’re out of those items or prefer to use the ground spices then definitely add a tablespoon each of granulated garlic and onion to your dish. The seasoning mix is also salt-free so that you can season each dish individually to taste.

2. Balsamic Vinegar.
I also adore balsamic vinegar. It’s my go-to acid in homemade salad dressings. And I actually had just run out before I took the picture above so it’s not in the line-up! If I wasn’t leaving for Florida in a day, I would have run to the store for more – but I’m trying to hold off on all grocery shopping until I get back. In addition to salad dressings, balsamic vinegar can be reduced and drizzled over steaks, chicken, or even strawberries (which is particularly delicious). There is just no other ingredient that replicates the aged, tangy taste of balsamic vinegar. Make sure to invest in good quality vinegar for the best results.

3. Local Honey.
I’m not a big sweets eater. To the point that I rarely use sweeteners – I don’t drink them in my tea, or in my morning smoothie. But local honey deserves a spot of this list for two reasons. First, it’s a wonderful remedy for colds and flus, and for helping to prevent allergies. And two, the honey most people keep in their kitchens is a weak, processed version of what real honey can be. Read my entire post on the benefits of raw, local honey here. But trust me, do yourself a favor and invest in some raw, local honey. You won’t believe the difference.

4. Cinnamon.
Although I excluded most spices from this list, I had to include cinnamon because it’s so often underrated and relegated to sweet foods. While I love cinnamon in desserts, French toast, and in my homemade whole wheat pancake mix, it’s also delicious in chili, and other spicy foods. Just a pinch of cinnamon (don’t overdo it – you don’t want to be able to discern the cinnamon flavor) in spicy foods is that “hmm, what is that?” flavor in the background that can really make a dish. I even sometimes throw a pinch into my taco fillings. A pinch of cinnamon is also a delicious addition to your morning coffee. And cinnamon has been found to have numerous health benefits such as the ability to lower cholesterol, lower/stabilize blood sugar, and in some studies has been found to reduce migraines.

5. Olive Oil.
I had to include at least one oil on this list. Coconut oil is another of my favorites, but olive oil wins the day because it’s my go-to oil for everything from salad dressings to sautéing meat and veggies on the stove. I think we all know the nutritional powerhouse that olive oil is, and how its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats support a healthy body. It’s definitely one kitchen ingredient I absolutely could not cook without.

This list was a little more diverse as the ingredients weren’t as clear-cut as other areas of the kitchen like the fridge. In fact, I had to leave out a few items, like green tea and coconut oil, that I truly think of as kitchen superstars. What about you? Any of your favorite items that didn’t make the list?

Clean Eating: Things I Always Have…In My Fridge

Today I’m continuing my “things I always have” series and moving into the refrigerator. Honestly, I didn’t struggle as much with picking five items from the fridge as I did from the pantry. I think the majority of my food stores (and I have a ton of food in my house for someone who lives alone – actually I think I have a ton of food in my house even if there were four other people living there) are in my pantry and my freezer. Especially my freezer. But we’ll get to that later.

My fridge is relatively clean and organized. There’s usually a variety of condiments (the usual suspects), a few bottles of wine for cooking and drinking (as I’m an avid wine lover), a water pitcher, leftovers, and the five “must haves” I’m going to discuss below. So, here they are, my five must-have items for clean eating that you’ll find in my fridge.

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1. Greek yogurt.
Ever since I discovered Greek yogurt (about two years ago) I’ve eaten it almost every day and never looked back. I always have a large tub of organic Greek yogurt (plain, 0% fat) in the fridge and I go through that tub pretty much every week. I use Greek yogurt as a stand-in for sour cream (because I legitimately cannot taste the difference) as well as a snack, in my smoothies, in baking, and in sauces like tzatziki. Greek yogurt is also one of the four ingredients in one of my favorite dinners – tandoori chicken. Greek yogurt is extraordinarily high in protein – averaging 15 to 20 grams in a 6 ounce serving. Protein is key to filling you up and keeping hunger pangs at bay. Not to mention it’s a versatile ingredient – in one day you can eat it with local honey, nuts and fruit as a breakfast or a snack and then use it as “sour cream” on top of a taco salad. I think Greek yogurt is my #1 must-have for the fridge.

2. Organic eggs.
Eggs are another wonderful source of protein. And contrary to what we believed for many years, eggs do not raise your cholesterol. Although I enjoy a green smoothie every day for breakfast during the week, eggs are usually my go-to breakfast on the weekends. I love eggs in all forms – hard-boiled, scrambled, over-easy, omelets (although I usually order these when I got out as I have no talent in making omelets on my own), and soft-boiled. I’ve also discovered in recent months that eggs make a delicious dinner too. A cheese pizza with a small salad (preferably arugula or frisee) on top and topped with a fried egg is absolutely delicious. Eggs are also delicious as a topper on polenta or oatmeal – or soft-boiled in homemade Ramon. Not to mention the great leftover-use up that is the frittata! They are another truly versatile ingredient. And I hope to be writing about all of the mentioned recipes soon! 🙂

3. A variety of organic greens.
There are always at least two types of organic greens in my fridge – kale and romaine. Although come spring time the kale will probably be replaced by spinach as it comes into season and kale goes out of season. As I mentioned before, I drink a green smoothie every morning for breakfast which has 1-2 cups of kale in it. Romaine is my favorite salad green but is occasionally replaced by red or green leaf lettuce. And now that spring is here (almost! The DC weather is just not cooperating yet) I’m sure I’ll be adding some arugula and micro-greens to my fridge. Usually my bunch of kale gets used up in a week in smoothies but kale is also stellar in salads, soups, and stir-fries. In addition, I try to eat a salad a day, either as a side dish with other foods (see my post on salad dressing here) or as a meal all on its own (see my post on building a hearty salad here). I’m going to invest in a salad spinner soon because the time I spend cleaning, drying and storing greens every week is a little ridiculous. Anyone have one that they recommend?

4. Salsa.
Besides the usual (and delicious) application of salsa for chips and dip – it has many other uses. I like to use it to top salads as well as to make Tex-Mex style rice (when cooking rice, add about 1 cup of salsa to the raw rice and cooking liquid). Salsa packs a lot of vegetables into every spoonful, just be careful about unnecessary added ingredients, and salt levels. This summer, when tomatoes come back in season, I plan on making my own salsa – post to come! 🙂

5. Shredded and block cheeses.
I am a big fan of cheese. Because I am such a big fan, it’s something I try to consciously monitor because I know I can overdo it. I love Pecorino Romano on pasta, to the point that there’s more cheese than sauce sometimes. One of my favorite guilty pleasure snacks is a few cubes of smoked gouda cheese with crackers, and the occasional slice of salami. And there’s always the shredded mozzarella for pizzas, and shredded Colby-jack and cheddar for tacos, salads, eggs, and pretty much anything else. And the salty goodness of feta. I could go on and on and on. Cheeses are higher in fat than other foods, but they also have lots of calcium and protein. And full-fat cheese has a combination of fat and protein that will help to fill you up. It’s still an ingredient to be used sparingly, but it’s so delicious when you do!

Once again, I hope you enjoyed this list of my “must-have” foods. What are some of the foods in your fridge that you just can’t live without?