I LOVE GRANOLA. I can’t even explain the love I have for it. It’s just one of those things I can take anywhere, eat anytime, top on anything, and know its not horrible for me (if I make it that is). I have one of my favorite granola recipes in my cookbook, Cooking Healthy Together, which is packed with protein, nuts and dried fruit. For this granola I wanted to make it a little more indulgent since the holidays are right around the corner…and who doesn’t love receiving granola as a gift?!
Keeping on with my healthy ways, I made this yummy indulgent granola super good for you by cutting down on the oil and salt and didn’t add any butter or artificial sweetener (because that always hurts my stomach anyway). The recipe includes ingredients such as organic oats, flaxseed and oat bran, and is sweetened with natural sugars from oranges, agave nectar, tons of cinnamon and delicious coconut.
Vegan Cinnamon Almond & Vanilla Coconut Granola
Recipe yields 10 cups
*you may always cut the recipe in half if that’s too much, but I always like to make a bunch to give some away as gifts or to save in the freezer for later!
I cringe at the thought of all the sugar and artificial flavorings in food nowadays. Being a new mom, health freak, fitness professional and cookbook author, it’s pretty obvious there was no way I wouldn’t be making my own baby food for my daughter. So far she’s had oatmeal, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, apples, carrots, zucchini, butternut squash, and organic chicken soup (I pureed this of course after making it and she gobbled it up)!
Recently when I went to Whole Foods Market to get some yogurt for her to try, I noticed so many of them were sweetened with some kind of artificial flavoring…no thank you. I decided to go with YoBaby plain organic yogurt and added in my own fruit. Sounds simple right? (Why doesn’t everyone do this?!) Needless to say Emma LOVED this “banana yogurt” just made from real bananas blended with yogurt! (P.S. I tried it too and it was delicious.)
This is when I started thinking about all the ways we can try to make our kids eat healthier…and why not make homemade fruit yogurt one of them? You know kids love Pinkberry and Yogurtland, and mostly because of the toppings! After school snack? Check! Who’s the cool & creative mom? You are! This is a fun way to get your kids to eat a healthy sweet snack without all the extra artificial sugar. Plus, you can make it for yourself too with whatever yogurt you enjoy. Trust me, it’s yummy.
Homemade Fruit Yogurt with Toppings:
It can be frustrating and annoying to have to worry about getting back in shape right after having a baby. Do you have time for the gym? NO. Do you have time to go grocery shopping? NO. Do you want to pick up another magazine about some celebrity who looks like they were never pregnant in the first place? HELL NO! All you want to do those first few months is sleep whenever possible, enjoy every second with your baby, and have a freakin glass of wine after being pregnant for 9 months! I get it. And to be honest, I wasn’t even thinking about sheading my baby weight after having Emma because I was so consumed by her and her every need. For me, it just happened naturally and quickly…I know, but don’t stab me with a fork just yet. Besides having great genetics (thank you mom!), I also took care of myself as much as possible throughout my pregnancy and immediately after – and along with taking care of my baby 24/7 – I think it all helped. There have been a lot of people asking me what I personally did to shed my baby weight so quickly, so here are some of my personal tried-and-true tips!!
Other important things to have in your home to keep it healthy…
So remember how blessed you are and take one day at a time…eventually the weight will come off and you will not be stressing about the little things.
Just a quick post to share one of my new crazy health creations! Of course on Sundays I usually spend them rummaging through my pantry, cleaning out the fridge, and thinking of new things to make for the week ahead. Low behold these peanut butter banana muffins that ended up having all kinds of good-for-you superfoods in them like flax meal, cinnamon, goji berries (okay…they’re chocolate covered goji berries, but whatever) and organic rolled oats. I was all out of white sugar (so embarrassing to admit!) but I used brown sugar and honey as substitutes. The result? Deliciously dense, carmely “banana bread” type of muffins that even my overly picky husband approves of!
Peanut Butter & Banana Muffins with Dark Chocolate Goji Berries
Makes 24 muffins
Don’t you hate when time gets the best of you?
Having a newborn is a good explanation of why time is such a precious thing…so during my baby’s last nap I wanted to do something I miss so dearly – get back in my kitchen!! I decided to bake something that would help nourish and refuel my body in between pilates clients & baby feedings when I don’t have time to prep a meal or make a healthy snack (which is often nowadays). My breakfast cookies – although my husband refuses to call them “cookies” since they have no reference to a real “cookie” (aka butter, sugar, salt, flour, eggs & chocolate chips) – are simply made by taking all natural yummy foods and basically eating banana/coconut oatmeal to-go!
Here is the recipe…enjoy & BE HEALTHY!
*You can add almond butter or peanut butter to the top or sandwich in between two “cookies” for a decadent protein-packed treat or more substantial snack
*You can substitute any kind of dried fruit and/or nut/seed you wish!
Now that I am in my 33rd week of pregnancy (only 7 more weeks to go!), I am feeling my body more than ever!!! Even though walking and yoga classes are great options, my #1 workout routine is still PILATES at least 4x a week. Nothing makes me feel more comfortable than working my body in a controlled environment where I can focus on my breathing, muscle contracting, and movement.
Over the years as a pilates instructor, I have trained many clients throughout their pregnancies and helped control their weight gain, retain their muscle tone, and focus on their breathing (which I’ve heard helped them through labor! :)). Afterward, we worked hard to get their pre-baby body back as soon as they were ready and able!!
Now, going through the whole pregnancy process myself (from nausea in the first trimester, to feeling comfortable & active in my second, then feeling the most tired & large in my third), I understand how pregnancy can make you feel amazing at some points, slow at others, and all around TIRED for no good reason! (well, you are making a baby after all…)
While everyone reacts to pregnancy differently, there are ways to stay as comfortable as possible during pregnancy, and one BIG WAY is to keep an exercise routine. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can not only be difficult on your mind, it can be hard on your body in general. There’s the stretching of skin (aka “stretch marks”), excess body fat, varicose veins, enlarged and achey breasts and uncomfortable sleeping positions. Not to mention food aversions, nausea, headaches, insomnia, skin discoloration, dry skin and acne. Sounds like a party, right?? Ha! It’s not all that bad, since not everyone has those symptoms…but there are ways to stay healthy throughout the entire pregnancy process no matter what.
Here are some of my pregnancy must-haves, from pilates exercises to healthy snacks & small meals! Hopefully this helps if you’re pregnant now or are planning on becoming pregnant soon :)
Pilates Exercises: These are just some of my favorites. Working your arms is essential since you don’t want to gain fat (aka “flab”) in that area.
Arms - all of these exercises can be done by being on your knees or by sitting on the box, whichever is most comfortable for you and where you feel most stable. Make sure you are on a long 1/2 spring (if using a stott reformer) or a blue spring (if using a balanced body reformer).
Single Arm Pull: Either sitting on one side of the box or lining your knees in a straight line facing either the right or left side of the machine, place one hand in the pilates handle and slowly pull rope in toward center of the body where it meets your other hand (opposite arm stays stationary in the middle of the body, the only part moving is the arm with the rope as it opens and closes). Keep your spine upright and gluteus tight, control should be from center of the body, and you should feel this contraction from your upper arm to your chest area (otherwise thought of as “pulling from your armpit”). Slowly repeat sequence for 10-15 reps and switch to repeat on opposite side.
Arm Raises: Sitting on the box (straddled, see below) or being on your knees facing the front of the machine, slowly lower arms down by your hips and then raise them up to your belly button – hold. Slowly lower and repeat for 10-15 reps.
Pilates Ring: Standing on the ground with your feet hip width apart, hold the ring in front of the center of your body by the palms of your hands. Slightly compress ring in and hold tension. Release and repeat for 20-30 reps. Make sure you are standing tall and your shoulders are down (not tensing up toward your neck). You can rest for 30 seconds and repeat this sequence 2-3 more times.
Bosu Ball: Sit on ball with feet in front of you. These are all exercises you can do while sitting on the bosu ball…
1.) Slightly roll hips from side to side on the ball, releasing any tension you might have in your hip flexors or lower back. Do this for at least 60-90 seconds and hold any spots that are extremely tight for longer periods of time.
2.) Start to tuck your pelvis forward and backward to contract your deep abdominal muscles (you want to still work them even though your pregnant, just no crunches or anything working the “superficial” or outer layer of muscles).
3.) Separate your feet wide on each side of you and rock the bosu ball from side to side, holding each side for at least 10 seconds and fully extending one leg to stretch. This helps extend those hip flexors, hamstrings and calf muscles. (see image below)
When I do leg/butt exercises, it’s mostly leg lifts done behind the machine by holding onto the footbar, squats or footwork on the reformer using the footbar, and leg circles with my feet in the ropes. The squats, footwork and leg circles (or any exercises with my feet in the ropes) are preformed lying on my back on the reformer machine with a towel or pillow under my head to keep my chest propped up.
*all exercises are not described or shown but just message me for further description!
Now…onto my favorite small meals & snacks since being pregnant!
-Blueberry, banana, kale & almond butter smoothie. I blend this with 1 scoop of vegan protein powder and 1 cup almond milk. It’s delicious, filling, and healthy!
-Whole grain bread or honey wheat bagel (toasted) with 2 tbsp either almond or sunflower seed butter topped with 1/2 sliced banana — or topped with 2 tbsp. reduced-fat cream cheese with sliced tomatoes & fresh ground pepper.
-Oatmeal (made with water or almond milk) topped with cinnamon, 1 tsp. agave nectar, 1 tbsp. chopped walnuts and 1 tbsp. raisins
-2 organic eggs scrambled with 1 handful spinach and 2 tbsp. shredded cheese topped with avocado slices
-1/4 cup of organic hummus (I make my own from the recipe out of my cookbook) served with carrots, cucumber slices and/or pita wedges
-1 cup organic Greek yogurt (with low fat or non fat, I love Wallaby found at Whole Foods Market) mixed with 1 tsp. agave nectar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, handful of fresh berries and homemade granola (recipe found in my cookbook)
-Sauteed veggies with 1 tbsp. sesame oil, 1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce, fresh ginger and lean protein (either tofu, chicken breast, turkey, flank/skirt steak) over 1/2 cup brown rice
-Vegetable sushi rolls
-Whole grain crackers with sharp white cheddar cheese or low-fat cottage cheese
-Organic string cheese. I usually eat this along with an apple or orange
-Larabars (I love “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” flavor)
-1/4 cup unsalted almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and/or sunflower seeds mixed with 2 tbsp. dried cranberries and cherries (sometimes I add dark chocolate covered berries if I need a sweeter snack!)
-2 cups air popped popcorn (low sodium)
Enjoy, eat what you crave (but not too much if it’s not good for you!) and try to find healthy alternatives to foods you find yourself often wanting (i.e. frozen yogurt instead of ice cream, homemade small pizzas instead of extra large & greasy delivery ones, fresh fruit instead of juice, whole grain verses white flour, etc.)
Please feel free to message me with any questions, comments or pregnancy stories you might have. I love to hear them all!
For those of you who don’t know, I am a little over 4 months pregnant! Hooray!
While the beginning was a little tough with nausea and trying to keep it under wraps until we got out of our first trimester, I was SO happy to have exercise on my side (since it was the only thing that made me feel better…well that & saltines with peanut butter! Haha!) I just have 3 words for every pregnant & non-pregnant woman: pilates, pilates, pilates!!! There has been nothing more reassuring then having the knowledge on how to work on a pregnant woman’s body than right now! I’ve had the pleasure of working with pre and post natal clients ever since I became certified in this specific area a little over two years ago. Experience combined with continued education has taught me so much on how a pregnant woman’s body works – and how they are all SO different!
There are a few important exercise factors when a woman becomes pregnant: trying not to make nausea, dizziness, or headaches worse (say hello to your air conditioning!), keeping the back pain under control by using – but not overworking – your abs, lats, and shoulders, and last but not least, lots of light stretching (only what feels good, not what causes pain!)
Here are my favorite Pilates moves for the pregnant body:
Arms: This area CANNOT be ignored when you’re pregnant because it’s easy to gain weight here! Working with light weights, resistance bands, a pilates ring, and on the reformer using the ropes in your hands are all great toning exercises for the arms.
Legs & Butt: No one wants the lower part of her body to sag, enlarge, lose muscle tone or feel heavy! The best exercises for your legs & butt are with your feet in the ropes on the reformer machine (propped up of course), standing leg lifts, squats, lunges and laying side leg work on the reformer machine.
NOW…most important – What to Avoid:
Laying flat on your back. This can cause nausea, acid reflex, and/or dizziness if you’re pregnant. A good rule of thumb: you always want your heart above the baby’s heart, so your head & chest need to be propped up if you are laying on your back with a towel/pillow or by sitting on a half or full box. This will help assure that your blood & oxygen flow is being accurately distributed to both you and your baby.
Lifting your hips or legs above or over your head. You don’t want to do any bridging or short spine exercises (when your legs go completely over your head). It’s important to remember the rule listed above: you always want your heart above the baby’s heart. So make sure to keep those hips and legs underneath you! (Both of these exercises below are “no-no’s” if you’re pregnant!)
Overusing your abdominal & oblique muscles. Too much work can cause diastasis recti (also known as abdominal separation), which is a disorder defined as a separation of the rectus abdominal muscle into right and left halves. In pregnant women, the defect is caused by the stretching of the rectus abdominals by the growing uterus and is more common in multiparous women (those who have given birth two or more times and/or are carrying more than one baby) due to repeated episodes of stretching. When the defect occurs during pregnancy, the uterus can sometimes be seen bulging through the abdominal wall beneath the skin. To avoid this from happening, I do NOT overwork or even focus on the abdominal section since this is such a sensitive & growing area. None of my clients have ever had or developed this condition, and I plan to keep it that way by practicing safe & effective pilates exercises.
Hopefully all this information helps A LOT for those of you who are looking to get pregnant, are already pregnant, needing new exercises to stay fit, or wanted to learn more about safe pregnancy exercises. I will keep you updated on new exercises I come up with, healthy meal/snack ideas (thank you Cooking Healthy Together!!), and my pregnancy overall as it progresses!