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!
Perfect Healthy Fall Recipe: Cinnamon-Nutmeg Banana Nut Muffins
Fall is one of my favorite seasons! The leaves start to change color and fall to the ground, the air gets colder, and “the best part” (my husband tells me) is our kitchen always seems to get more “baking-friendly.”
One of my favorite no-fail-everyone-loves healthy recipes is my Cinnamon-Nutmeg Banana Nut Muffins. They are warm and comforting, but not too sweet so you can feel good after eating one - or a few more! The bananas, cinnamon and nutmeg themselves give the muffins a sweet delicious flavor without adding a ton of calories or fat, so you feel that holiday-loving feeling…without feeling like a big, fat Santa Claus!
Here is the recipe that I have created by substituting healthier ingredients for richer ones (i.e. my own take on how to make healthy “buttermilk!”)
ENJOY & A HAPPY HEALTHY FALL TO YOU
Cinnamon-Nutmeg Banana Nut Muffins
As the summer comes to an end and the vacations start dwindling down…a lot of people begin to dwindle down themselves. The clothes get heavier, the nights get darker & colder, and the planned workouts get pushed aside for sleeping in, cozying by the fire, and baking holiday cookies. This is the time to really get on a healthy schedule if you want to stay healthy through the fall and winter months - aka the holidays!!!
Here are my 5 tips on how to stay fit after those summer months are long behind you (…and when fruits & vegetables get replaced with delicious but diet-destroying holiday cookies – yikes!)
Any questions, comments or helpful workout tips for staying healthy after summer and through the holidays are more than welcome!
If you have my cookbook, Cooking Healthy Together, you’ll see that salads are definitely are major addition or main attraction on our dining table. However, these salads we eat aren’t the boring green leaf + tomato + bland dressing type. These are big, delicious, hearty, I-can’t-stop-eating-this kind of salads – which I happen to prefer over anything.
I came across this particular brussels sprout salad after I published my book…otherwise it would have been in there. It’s so simple, yet PACKED with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, fiber & (a little) healthy fat. I personally like to make it in the morning so I can enjoy a quick – but healthy – lunch or snack when I don’t have time to cook a full meal in between my pilates clients.
Bottom line? Whether you make it for lunch, serve it with dinner, bring it in a tuberware to work, or keep in your fridge for a healthy snack, you will LOVE THIS SALAD!!!
Summer Brussels Sprout Salad
Makes about 4 servings
▪ 3-4 cups or about 15-20 brussels sprouts (pre-shredded if possible, available at Trader Joe’s)
▪ 3/4 cup sliced almonds (raw or toasted, no salt)
▪ 1/4 cup organic dried cranberries
▪ 1/2 cup freshly shredded (or grated) Parmesan cheese
▪ 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
▪ 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
▪ 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
▪ 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
▪ 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1. On a cutting board, coarsely chop brussels sprouts if they are not already pre-shredded.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, sea salt & pepper until well combined. Set dressing aside.
3. Combine sprouts, almonds, cranberries and Parmesan cheese in a large bowl.
4. Slowly pour dressing over the salad and toss all ingredients together until well combined.
5. Serve immediately or place in a tuberware and use within 1-2 days. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to eat.
Make, share & repeat.
For even more healthy & simple recipes, check out my cookbook available online for purchase!
A lot of people ask me what my favorite health drink is for staying active on the job. While I love my “Chocolate Almond Banana” when I’m craving something chocolaty & decedent (1 heaping scoop of almond butter, 1/2 frozen banana & 1 scoop chocolate protein powder blended with 1/2 cup ice and 1 cup almond milk), this greens drink is the one I ALWAYS send to clients who are looking to tone up their tummies & clean up their diet before for summertime!
My skinny greens drink packs enough nutrients to be a hearty snack or light meal – and since I eat small meals throughout the day, this is one of my must-haves! It’s perfect a few hours before a workout or immediately post-workout since this drink is PACKED with fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals to keep your metabolism high so your body can keep burning those calories! Plus it tastes AMAZINGGGG…just wait till you start making this and see how much more energy you have!
A client of mine now calls this drink her “Superwoman Drink” since she has dropped 2 sizes (along with doing pilates 4 times a week) once she started adding this into her diet! My other client nicknamed this smoothie “The Green Monster” and makes it for her kids when they get home from school. She adds a small scoop of peanut butter before blending to make it more decedent and says they love the taste and have as much energy as “little monsters” as they run around and play afterward! (…I don’t think kids ever slow down – but it’s better than cookies!)
Whatever you do, however you like it – make this drink for a healthy punch that will improve & enhance your immune system, body physique, waistline, energy levels, skin tone & metabolism!
Jessica’s Skinny Greens Drink
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch kale
1 cup chopped cucumber
A quarter or 1/3 of an avocado (depending how big it is)
1/2 cup pineapple
1/2 frozen banana
1/2 cup ice
3/4 cup water
Blend until smooth & enjoy immediately!
I was so honored to have a guest spot on KCAL-9 news at 12pm this past Wednesday, May 2nd!
Since my new cookbook, Cooking Healthy Together, is receiving so much positive press (yay!), I was asked to do a special healthy cooking segment on KCAL-9 for Cinco de Mayo since it’s just around the corner! The afternoon show featured my Turkey Tacos in Lettuce Cups, Chunky Guacamole, and (of course) Fresh Lime Margaritas!
We touched on a few key points about my cookbook Cooking Healthy Together too, one of my favorites being how you can still enjoy yummy food & cocktails but can make everything healthier by cooking at home with your loved one!
Cheers to an amazing & healthy Cinco De Mayo…at home!
And both my husband, Joey, and my dad came with me for support (of course!) and to help me set up…what great guys!
Here is my husband, Joey, and I before the show started!
Me with my dad right before they called us to set…