Sweet Potato Protein Pancakes

Pancakes anyone?

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Snowstorm Stella hit the Boston area pretty hard today, so I had time to make a delicious breakfast. I decided to give these sweet potato protein pancakes a try. Traditional pancakes are full of enriched wheat flour and sugar, both of which are not beneficial for your health. These pancakes are totally revamped to give you plenty of nutrition, while also being delicious. Sweet potatoes are known as a beauty food, because they contain lots of Vitamin A, which can help repair cell damage. In addition, sweet potatoes contain Vitamin C, making them great for boosting the immune system as well. I got this recipe from the Hungry Hobby Blog. I ended up modifying the recipe a little, but used the same basic ingredients.

You will need:

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  • 1 large sweet potato (I kept the skin on because it adds extra fiber)
  • 1 cup of egg whites (I used eggs that are organic and cage free)
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I used Sunwarrior vanilla)
  • ¼ cup of flax seed
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Coconut oil for cooking
  • Splash of non-dairy milk (if you want the batter to be a little runnier)

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I also added 1 tablespoon of Vital Proteins Unflavored Collagen Peptides. I have been absolutely loving this stuff recently, and I try to incorporate it whenever I have the chance. Collagen is said to be the best anti-aging treatment you can do for your skin without any fancy creams or harsh surgeries. In addition, collagen has 9 grams of protein per one scoop (Source: PrimallyInspired). This means you will stay fuller longer and have less cravings. Instead of taking Advil for joint pain or muscle aches, take collagen! It contains amino acids, which aids in reducing inflammation and repairing tissue.

Instructions:

  1. Toss all ingredients into a blender (I used a Vitamix, which are the best blenders in my opinion), and blend the mixture until completely smooth
  2. Coat the pan in coconut oil, or any other oil of choice, but do not forget this step! Otherwise, you will make a huge mess
  3. Use a ladle to spoon the mixture onto the pan (they should be medium sized, but not too thick or they will not cook through) Flip after about 30-45 seconds

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This recipe makes about three pancakes, which is plenty because they are so filling! These are great for a post-workout meal because they contain so much protein, or as a healthy breakfast substitute for regular pancakes. I topped mine with maple syrup, strawberries and bananas. I also dusted them with more cinnamon, because you can never have enough cinnamon! It has antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties (Source:Organicauthority). You could also add some nut butter or chocolate chips!

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Foods that Pack a Punch

A nutritional punch that is!

There are some foods that I make sure to eat every single day because these foods in particular give you so much nutrition per calorie (a big bang for your buck). They are not just healthy, but have the power to fight inflammation in the body, help you lose weight, increase your energy, and boost your immunity. Pick up some of these items on your next grocery trip, and your body will thank you.

Ginger

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Ginger is a cleansing spice that can be added to your food, or it can be grated into tea. Ginger can assist in nausea, and can also help in joint pain. Gingerol is the active substance in freshly grated ginger that can lower the risk of infections because it inhibits the growth of bacteria. For example, it can assist in inflammatory conditions, such as gingivitis (Source: Authoritynutrition).

Turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow spice that has traditionally been used in Indian cooking for hundreds of years. Turmeric is the most anti-inflammatory spice out there, and it can even support detoxification, as well as cognitive function (Source: Whfoods). Turmeric is so great that I even take it in supplement form, in addition to cooking with it. Grate some fresh turmeric into your soups, salads, or stir-fries.

Beets

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This colorful root vegetable can make any dish a beautiful, purple color, which is why I love incorporating them! The colorful pigments that give beets their beautiful color are also the antioxidants that make them so healthy. These particular antioxidants improve eye health, and can even reduce risk of certain cancers (Source: Whfoods).

Sauerkraut

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Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage, which contains live bacteria. There is so much research nowadays proving that gut health is so critical for well-being. Read more on gut health here. A big portion of our immune system is in our gut, therefore having lots of healthy gut bacteria helps our immune system stay strong and fight off infections.

Mushrooms

Cordyceps

Mushrooms are very rich in iron, protein, and selenium. Mushrooms can prevent against free radicals, and are amazing for the immune system (Source: healthyeating.sfgate). Recently, my favorite way of incorporating mushrooms is by adding Cordyceps powder into my smoothies. Cordyceps are great for boosting energy levels, and can also help rejuvenate the skin (Source: organicfacts). I’ve found that since adding cordyceps, I have more energy during my workouts.

Hemp Seeds

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Hemp seeds are one of the best sources of plant-based protein out there. Hemp seeds are full of vitamin E; amazing for glowing, radiant skin. They also contain essential fatty acids in the perfect ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6. In addition, hemp seeds contains all 9 essential amino acids (Source:purehealingfoods). I like adding hemp seeds to smoothies, but also sprinkling them on top of salads or soups.

Give any of these foods a try, and I promise you will not regret it!


Tuna Salad Healthified

I used to love tuna salad sandwiches growing up. When I got really into my health and fitness a few years ago, I stopped eating them because I learned that tuna salad is full of mayonnaise, which is not healthy for you. Mayonnaise is full of soybean oil, and contains added sugar. In addition, traditional mayonnaise contains egg yolks that comes from chickens on factory farms, so the chickens are fed tons of antibiotics and pesticides that we do not want in our bodies.

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I recently placed an order on Thrive Market (which by the way, is the best food delivery service for all-natural, organic products) for the Primal Kitchen Chipotle Lime Mayo. This mayonnaise is so much better than conventional mayonnaise because it is made with eggs that are both organic and cage free, as well as avocado oil instead of soybean oil. Avocado oil is much healthier for you because it is high in oleic acid, which can help with fat loss, and even lower blood pressure (Source: MooScience). Since getting this new mayo, I was inspired to recreate my childhood favorite of tuna salad on bread.

So how do you make a healthified version of the classic tuna salad sandwich? First, make sure the tuna is a high quality brand. I like Wild Planet tuna fish because it is sustainable, wild caught tuna. Keep in mind that you should not consume tuna more than twice a week due to mercury levels, but in moderation tuna can be a very healthy addition to any diet. Next, replace the mayonnaise with a healthier version and you are good to go. Here is what you will need to make a delicious Open-faced Tuna Sandwich:

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  • Primal Kitchen’s Chipotle Lime Mayo (or another healthy mayo substitute)
  • Stone ground mustard
  • Can of wild caught tuna fish
  • Half of an avocado
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 lemon
  • Diced onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Bread of choice
  1. Chop up the celery and onion into small pieces
  2. Combine the tuna, celery, onion into a bowl
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of mayo
  4. Add 2 teaspoons of mustard
  5. Squeeze the juice of half of a lemon into mixture
  6. Stir to combine with a fork, and season to taste with salt and pepper

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Spread the tuna salad over some bread, and add some sliced avocado on top if you desire. I served mine on top of gluten free bread with more lemon, and some mustard greens underneath. Enjoy!

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There Are No Shortcuts to a Healthy Diet

Are you taking lots of supplements everyday?

How about immune boosters, energy shots, or superfood elixirs? While these items can be a beneficial addition to your diet, there is no evidence that any specific supplements or superfood powders will substitute for a healthy diet. Supplements can be beneficial for some people, but if you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, then there is no need to take multiple supplements everyday. In fact, taking a lot of one vitamin can actually create imbalances in your body.

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If you are consuming a diet that is heavily processed, and full of refined sugars or unhealthy oils, then even if you drink the healthiest superfood drink everyday, it will never make up for your unhealthy diet. Supplements/superfoods/tonics should be a very small addition to a healthy,balanced diet. It’s just like wearing makeup; you should not rely on makeup to feel pretty, but it can be a nice enhancer to your natural features.

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I think grabbing a juice like one pictured above is a great idea in a pinch, but buying one of these everyday is not ideal.

Why? One, because they are ridiculously expensive. Eight dollars for one juice! No one should be spending that kind of money on 16 fluid ounces of juice. Two, it is much better to make your own juice or smoothie at home. Live enzymes are destroyed once they go through the processing, packaging and shipping that bottled juices go through before you drink them. Overall, the nutrient load in these juices are not as high as fresh pressed juice, even if the label tries to convince you otherwise.

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Superfoods can be an excellent addition, but they cannot compromise for a poor diet.

Adding a tablespoon of maca powder into your smoothie, or mixing goji berries into your oatmeal are both fantastic ways of incorporating these foods. However, eating some superfoods after chowing down on some fast food or processed junk, will not negate the bad food you ate. Many superfoods have fancy packaging to try and convince you that they are better than anything else you can put into your body. Ultimately, you should be eating a diet full of plenty of fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Superfoods can be added here and there if you wish. But they are not necessary to consume everyday. Focus on consuming foods that are closest to their natural state as possible. After that, you can worry about superfoods.

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Why You Need Manuka Honey in your Life

Manuka honey is an all-natural honey that comes from New Zealand. It is not like any other raw honey, because it is antibacterial, antifungal and very healing. You can apply manuka honey on cuts or scrapes as an alternative to hydrogen peroxide because it is much more gentle, and works even better. You can also take manuka honey internally to help boost your immune system. My favorite way to use manuka honey is as a face mask:

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The brand I am using is GoodOnYa because it is a very high quality brand that uses medical grade Manuka Honey. It is important to make sure you use a high quality manuka honey and check the UMF, which stands for Unique Manuka Factor. It should be at least above 10 for optimal healing properties. I use Manuka Honey as a a facemask every night because it is great for rosacea and dermatitis, which are two conditions my skin is prone to. You can also use manuka honey as an all-natural face wash, as opposed to a drying cleanser.

Here are some awesome recipes for manuka honey masks:

Turmeric Manuka Honey Mask

  • 1 tablespoon of pure Manuka Honey
  • 1 tablespoon of turmeric* powder
  • 1 tablespoon pure jojoba oil

Mix the ingredients together to form a paste and apply it all over your skin. Leave for at least twenty minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water. Turmeric is incredibly anti-inflammatory, and can help many skin conditions. *Note: Turmeric tends to stain the skin yellow, but don’t worry! You can use some rosewater or any toner to get the yellow pigment off.

Avocado Manuka Honey Mask

  • 1 tablespoon of pure Manuka Honey
  • 1 tablespoon of mashed avocado
  • 1 tablespoon of pure avocado oil

Mix the ingredients together to form a paste and apply it all over your skin. Leave for at least twenty minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water. Avocado is full of Vitamin E, which can soften your skin and leave it looking supple and glowing.

Charcoal Manuka Honey Mask

  • 1 tablespoon of pure Manuka Honey
  • 1 capsule of charcoal powder
  • 1 tablespoon of pure jojoba oil

Empty the charcoal capsule into a bowl, and mix with the honey and jojoba oil. Apply onto your skin and leave for 15-20 minutes. Rinse off thoroughly. Charcoal is great for pulling impurities out of your skin, and leaving your pores smaller.

Incorporating manuka honey into my life has helped my skin tremendously. I am less prone to breaking out, and my skin looks healthier after doing any one of these masks. Try incorporating this mask when you want to relax and treat yourself, maybe as you are taking a warm bath or reading a great book.


Best Yoga Poses for Back Pain

Did you know that according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010 that low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide? It is also one of the most common reasons for missed work, in addition to visits to the doctor’s office. One half of all Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. Perhaps the most staggering statistic is that Americans spend at least 50 billion each year on back pain. Yes, that’s right: 50 BILLION DOLLERS! Insanity. There are many things that can cause back pain, but one of the most common is poor posture. Since most Americans are hunched on their computers for the majority of the day, it makes sense that back pain is such a prevalent problem in our society.

One of the best ways to combat back pain is doing yoga. I have been doing yoga for just about three years, and I have found that the aches and pains in my back have been dramatically reduced. I occasionally will get some back pain because I am a college student and often have to be working on a laptop, but the pain is incomparable to what it used to be. Doing yoga allows your body to release tension, and it also strengthens the muscles in your back. Consistent yoga makes your posture better, in addition to the hundreds of other benefits.

These are some of the best yoga poses to incorporate starting from the easiest to most advanced.

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Updog: Updog is excellent for lower back pain. Start in plank with your hands planted firmly in front of you. Shoulders should be parallel to your arms. Use your arm strength to drop slowly into a pushup, and then pull through, rolling over your toes to perform updog. Your arms should feel very secure, and your legs should be lightweight. Your knees should not be touching the ground. When we sit forward all day while we are at our desks or driving, our back muscles are being strained. Back-bending poses like this one creates extension throughout the entire spine, strengthening the muscles. Updog is part of Sun salutation A or B, but it is also effective by itself.

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Fixed Firm Pose: This is a more advanced pose, part of the Bikram Yoga Series. I learned to love this pose while interning for Bikram one summer. You sit on your heels, keep your knees on the floor, and then lie down, creating an arch with your back. Do not let your knees come off the floor. Relax, and try to bring your knees closer together. This pose relieves lower back pain, while also strengthening the muscles.

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Camel Pose: Also an advanced pose from Bikram Yoga. This pose compresses your spine and helps lower back problems. In addition, it promotes the elimination of toxins. If you are a beginner, I do not recommend going all the way back immediately because this pose can cause you to become very dizzy. Start with your knees on the floor, and place your hands on your hips, fingers down. Let your shoulders roll back, and keep the chest lifted. Put your thumbs on the outside of your feet. Push your hips forward while maintaining a tight grip on your feet.

wheel pose

Wheel Pose: The last pose is wheel pose, or an extension of bridge pose. This pose is perhaps the best to strengthen your low back. Start by lying on the floor in bridge. Set up your hands behind you, with your wrists upwards. Straighten your arms and lift your head off the floor. You can point your feet to go even higher, which I am doing here. To come out, slowly bend your arms and tuck your chin towards your chest. Lower your spine gently to earth.

I hope you incorporate these poses into your daily routine because I assure you they are 100 times better than any drugs or medication you may take for your back. Also remember to try to have good posture throughout the day. Don’t slump forward and instead remain sitting upright with your shoulders back as you work.


Lose Fat Quickly by Training Like This

Are you going on the elliptical/treadmill for an hour at the gym? Do you find yourself getting bored from your workouts? Has your body shape remained the same the past couple months even though you’ve been working out? Are you losing motivation?

The best way of training I’ve found personally for fixing these problems is called: Functional HIIT Workouts.

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HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. Basically, you push your body as hard as you can for a quick interval, then rest, then you repeat it. The reason why this training is the best for burning fat and changing your body is:

1) It engages all main muscle groups at the same time (legs, abs, core, arms, back)
2) You sweat and burn lots of calories in a short period of time
3) Mind Muscle Connection; it’s functional training. You have to focus on each muscle as you work it, which then helps you work harder and more effectively through each move. You’re not just mindlessly on a machine thinking about what you’ll eat for dinner that night. You must focus to get results.
4) You won’t just lose weight, but you will look more toned. Your body shape will begin to change. You will avoid looking “skinny fat”

Functional HIIT training is the best way to train is because it is way more effective at burning fat while not taking up lots of time. Most effective HIIT workouts can be done in twenty minutes, or less. You could be on the ellitpical going at a steady pace for an hour and burn less calories than you would doing twenty minutes of HIIT. You also are barely engaging your muscles on an elliptical, but doing HIIT, you engage all your main muscle groups. You will still be burning calories after you finish your workout due to all the energy your muscles use up to perform the hard exercises. Since HIIT training is so intense, I only recommend doing it 3-4 times per week, and lifting 4-5 times per week. You can combine your strength workouts with your HIIT workouts, however, you should perform the strength training, and perform HIIT as a burnout. Alternatively, you can combine strength and HIIT together into one workout. The following routine contains my favorite total body strength/HIIT moves:

45 seconds of each exercise and repeat each twice:
  • Squat jack holding a dumbbell
  • Reverse lunge with a bicep curl
  • Pushup to a plank row
  • Kettle bell swing plus overhead tricep extension

Equipment for a great HIIT session:

*Weight lifting gloves: Stabilize you during pushups/burpees, they also make holding the weight easier because your hands will likely be super sweaty

*Seconds App: My favorite timer for intervals. It even comes with built in timers so you can start using it right away!

*Stepblocks: Great for cardio moves such as quick feet switches

*Bench/chair: Effective for step ups or tricep dips

*FitnessBlender: By far my favorite free service for fun, effective workouts. They have over 200 HIIT workouts. I am not sponsored or affiliated, but have been using their workouts for years, and I’m not sick of them! All the workouts are typed out at the bottom for you to write down or print as well

FitnessBlender has a ton of HIIT and strength workout routines but here are some of my favorite moves.

Do each exercise for 20 seconds each, and repeat each for three times.
  • Squat jumps
  • Burpee with a plank jack
  • Side lunge with center hop
  • Pushup to a side plank dip
  • Reverse lunge pulse (x3) and switch

I will be recording my workouts very soon, and sharing it on my page so you can see these moves in action.


Nutrition vs. Calories

We all know that food has calories. Some food has lots of calories, and some food have very little calories. I find unfortunately that many people are obsessed over calories. I used to be one of those people, and I share about my past with disordered eating here: My Story. I would count every single calorie I ate to make sure I never surpassed 1,200. On top of eating the bare minimum of calories, (not enough for a growing 16 year old) I was doing strenuous exercise each day for crew. I was running up to five miles a day, and rowing for an hour straight. I would get home and eat only a salad. I was so tired and weak every single day. On top of that, I was moody and miserable. I was skinny, but depressed. I was a mere 115 pounds, and I am 5’7, making me very underweight. In context, the healthy body weight for a 5’7 active teenager is anywhere from 125-155 pounds.

I would get sick often. I was not happy. I had a terrible relationship with food and with my body. I didn’t look healthy. All of this makes sense to me now because I realize I was not getting proper nutrition to fuel my body, or my brain. No wonder I was in a bad mood all the time, and became anti-social. All the calories I ate were coming from heavily processed, artificial food such as sugary granola bars, 100 calorie greek yogurts, or low calorie cereals. There was barely any nutrition in these foods, but they fit into my allotted calorie budget.

There is a very important difference between calories and nutrition and its this:

Nutrition matters, calories do not.

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Fresh fruit stand

Obviously, calories matter if you are severely overweight and need to lose weight to be healthy. But in general, calorie counting is very detrimental to your well-being. It creates a negative attitude towards food, and makes you feel restricted in your everyday life. 100 calories of junk food is not the same as 100 calories of fruit. One makes you feel crappy, and the other makes you feel amazing. Can you guess which?

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Organic, fresh strawberries

People need to stop viewing calories as bad. Calories are not the enemy. Calories are units of energy that fuel your body to do amazing things. The right calories help your body function to feel amazing both mentally and physically.

Another thing I want to mention is hunger. I used to view being hungry as a demon; a monster that wouldn’t leave me alone throughout the day. I would try to kill this monster by chewing gum, drinking artificial zero calorie energy drinks, and munching on carrot sticks or ice cubes. Ice cubes!!! That sounds so ridiculous to me now. Hunger means that your metabolism is trying to work, and your body needs more fuel in order to make it work. So feed it!!! Listen to your body. Eat good nutritious food. What do I mean by that? I mean food that is minimally processed and freshly prepared. Eat lots of leafy green vegetables, fruit, healthy fats like avocado or nuts, and lean proteins. Eat until you are completely satisfied. Indulge if you feel like it. Don’t restrict yourself. Don’t get mad at yourself for overindulging or eating something that is not “perfect”.

Ultimately, having a healthy relationship with food is so important for your overall well-being. If you are constantly stressed about what you’re eating all the time, you will never be happy with how you look. So let it go. Realize that you are perfect the way you are, and desiring to be anyone other than yourself is a waste of time. By focusing on eating healthy foods, working out, and loving yourself, the ideal body will come to you naturally over time. Trust your body, trust your intuition, and trust those hunger cues!


Incredible Uses for Pink Himalayan Salt

Have you heard of the pink Himalayan salt? It has been taking the health world by storm recently, and for good reason. Himalayan salt is not just to season your food and make it more delicious, but it can also be used in other amazing ways which I will be sharing in this post.

To season your food: Pink salt is better than regular salt for seasoning your food because regular table salt is very heavily processed, therefore the beneficial minerals are destroyed.The pink salt contains a plethora of minerals which can help to balance your pH levels. It’s also great for your digestion and can help regulate your sleep because of the magnesium.

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As an Air Purifier: I have a pink salt lamp in my room and not only does it look pretty, but it can even help purify the air. The lamp attracts air pollutants to it, and all t hose allergens get trapped in the salt rather than in your body.

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Salt Soaking: Soaking in a bath filled with Himalayan salt is an excellent way to get an at home detox. Your skin is going to soak up all those amazing minerals from the bath, such as magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium just to name a few. This will make your skin instantly become revitalized and healthier. Soaking is great for sore muscles or stiff joints by reducing inflammation.

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Sinus Problems: Have you ever tried using a neti pot? It is the most effective, natural way to clean your sinuses. Adding Himalayan pink salt to your neti pot (only 1/4 teaspoon) kills bad bacteria and bonds to contaminants that are stuck in your nose, bringing them out. This is a perfect thing to do if you’re feeling stuffed up, or have recently been sick because the post-nasal drip is probably still lingering.

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Bottom line is that if you have not incorporated pink salt in your life, you should start today! You can get this huge bag of pink salt for only 8 bucks from this website, or any local health food store near you.

 


Essential Oils are Essential

I believe essential oils got their name because they are essential for optimal well being. I use essential oils everyday in various different ways and find that they have excellent impacts on my health. Essential oils and using aromatherapy is one of the best ways to relax and it can help multiple psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression.

Here are some of my favorite oils, and how I use them.

Tea Tree Oil: This oil can be used in a diffuser to freshen the air, or on blemishes. Dilute the oil if you use it on your skin, use only three drops for 1/4 cup of purified water and dab it on any blemishes. Tea tree oil is very anti-bacterial and can work much better than harsh acne creams.

Lavender: Lavender is one of the best oils to promote relaxation and restful sleep. Before going to bed each night, I dab some lavender oil behind my ear lobes and on my neck. I make sure to breathe in the oil very deeply to reap the full benefits. Another great idea is to take a few drops of lavender oil and mix it with a carrier, such as jojoba, and give yourself a temple massage. This is such a great way to relax and show yourself love if you are extremely stressed out.

Lemon/Lemongrass: This is my favorite oil to freshen the air with. Just add a few drops in your aromatherapy diffuser, and it will immediately freshen the air. It is anti-fungal, so it will prevent mold growth in your room. You can also add a few drops of lemon essential oil into a spray bottle with purified water if you do not have a diffuser. Lemon is also an excellent all natural cleaning solution. Combine a few drops of lemon essential oil with vinegar and purified water for an all-natural cleaning solution.

Peppermint: Peppermint oil can greatly improve your mouth hygiene. Add a few drops into a jar of coconut oil, and use it to oil pull. If you would like to learn the benefits of oil pulling, make sure to check out this post.

These are just some of the hundreds of benefits of essential oils. Make sure to buy your essential oils from a certified company. Some of my favorites are Rocky Mountain, Fabulous Frannie, and Radha Beauty. You should make sure your essential oils are pure, and do not have added fillers.