My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 2: Snacks


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week106Who doesn’t love to snack? That little indulgence in-between meals to help keep metabolism energy levels going and consistent. Some people love sweet, some love salty, and many love both as long as it’s delicious – but more importantly, healthy! Below are some of my favorite and simple recipes for a healthy snack Paleo-style! Remember to send me your own favorite Paleo snack recipes. Enjoy!

Baked Zucchini Chips
For the chip eater in your home! Preheat oven to 225° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil, and spray with canola oil. Set aside. Slice 1 zucchini into thin medallions, about the thickness of a quarter. Place slices on baking sheet sprayed with and spray tops lightly with additional cooking spray. Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice. Place in preheated oven and bake 45 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and bake an additional 30-50 minutes, until chips are browned and crisped to your liking. These are best eaten within a couple hours of removing from the oven, as they start to get chewy if left out. One zucchini yields one serving, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chips depending on the size of your squash.

Carmel Apple Dip
Perfect in the fall and year round! Combine 1 cup pitted Medjool dates (about 8 to 10), 2 tablespoon full fat canned coconut milk, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Scrap down the sides if needed. Scoop out and place in a bowl. Serve with your favorite sliced apples and enjoy! Store extra in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Cauliflower Popcorn
A healthy makeover of a family favorite! Soak 1/4 cup raw cashews in 1/4 cup of water for 1 to 2 hours. Pour off the soaking water, and transfer your soaked nuts to a blender. Add another 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to your nuts in the blender. Blend until smooth. In a large bowl, pour the cashew mixture over the 1 head of cauliflower cut into florets and toss to coat. Spread out on teflex sheets or parchment paper. Dehydrate at 115° F for 12 to 24 hours.

Cinnamon Glazed Almonds
These are simply irresistible! In a saucepan, mix 1/2 cup water, 1 to 2 tablespoons cinnamon and 1 cup coconut palm sugar and bring to a boil. Stir in 2 cups soaked raw almonds and reduce heat to medium. Continue stirring mixture for about 25 to 30 minutes until mixture becomes very chunky. All liquid must evaporate to cause mixture to crystallize on the almonds. Immediately spread the almonds out on a sheet with aluminum foil or wax paper. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before eating. Serves 6.

Energy Bars
Running around during the day? Make these ahead of time to bring with you! Place 2 cups hulled fresh strawberries and 13 pitted Medjool dates (about 2 cups) into a food processor or high-powered blender. Process into a slightly chunky puree and not completely smooth. Pour fruit puree into a bowl and evenly mix in 1/4 cup flax seeds, 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, and 1/8 cup chia seeds. Add sea salt to taste (optional) if you are using salted pumpkin seeds. Spread the mixture onto a food dehydrator tray lined with parchment paper or a dehydrator sheet. The mixture should be about one-eighth-inch thick. Dehydrate at 105° F for about 24 hours. After about 12 to 18 hours and when the top is no longer sticky to the touch and the bottom can easily peel off the parchment/dehydrator sheet, flip the mixture over so the top is now the bottom. This will help evenly dehydrate both sides. The bars are done when they have a fruit leather texture, not completely crispy like a cracker. Cut into bars using a pizza cutter and store in an airtight container, in a cool dark place. Can be stored six months to one year and less if not in an airtight container and the environment is warmer than 70° F.

Raw Cashew Balls
These are great for picnics! Place 1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates in a food processor and process until smooth. Add 1 cup cashews and 1/2 cup cashew butter. Process until the mixture forms a dough ball. Once a dough ball has formed, move the dough to a plate and form the mixture into 16 equal sized balls, refrigerate for at least an hour to harden and enjoy! You can also substitute the cashews and cashew butter for almond and almond butter.

Stuffed Apples
This is super easy and one of my favorites as I love the combination! Select your favorite apple (mine are the green Granny Smith!), one for each person you will be serving. Wash, dry and core the center of the apple without cutting it open. Scoop your favorite nut butter in center (I use almond). That’s it! It’s ready to eat! Wrap it in plastic if you are taking it on the go.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 1: Breakfast


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week105If you are a regular follower of my blog, you will know that me eating Paleo didn’t happen overnight; it took years of trial and error plus refinement to determine what works best for my body and myself. If you are also a fellow Paleo eater, or are curious as to what one eats when following the Caveman Diet, I am going to share with some of my favorite go-to foods for breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners and desserts in a five part series. First up, breakfast. These are all delish! Inbox me with your own favorite Paleo breakfasts!

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie
This is a super easy recipe and is like dessert for breakfast! In a mixture, add: 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup coconut water (or more almond milk), 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon hemp seeds (or nut of choice), 1/2 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 tablespoon raisins, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more to taste), 1 scoop vanilla Fat Flush Body Protein (or your favorite protein powder) and a handful or two ice. Blend all. Serve with more raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Almond Zucchini Bread
Moist and delish! Preheat oven to 350° F and grease two mini bread loaf pans. Combine 1 1/2 cups almond flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. Combine 3 omega-3 eggs, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 mashed banana and 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil in a stand mixer and beat on medium for about 2 minutes. Or combine in a large bowl and whisk together vigorously. Add 1 cup grated zucchini (water squeezed out) and mix until combined. Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix until incorporated. Pour batter into loaf pans. Bake for 32-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer bread out of loaf pan and cool on wire rack. Makes 2 mini loaves.

Scrambled Egg Whites with Spinach, Tomatoes and Turkey
One of my ultimate favorites! Brown 1 pound lean ground turkey in a medium skillet until cooked through and lightly browned. Drain excess juices from the pan. Place turkey in a bowl and set aside. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Scramble 8 egg whites until dry. Add scrambled eggs to cooked turkey. In a small skillet coated with cooking spray, lightly sauté 2 coarsely chopped tomatoes, 2 c. shredded spinach and 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press. In a large skillet combine all ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Bacon and Heirloom Tomato Frittata with Basil
Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl whisk 12 large omega-3 eggs together and add 1 clove of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Cut 1/2 pound turkey bacon (8 slices) into 1/4 inch strips and cook in a 10 inch, cast iron skillet until almost crispy and much of the fat has rendered. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the bacon into a separate dish and reserve. Drain all but two tablespoons of the fat. Add 1 medium diced red onion diced and cook in the remaining bacon fat on medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Add another 1 clove of the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the bacon back to the pan and spread out evenly. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the hot pan and allow to cook on medium until the edges begin to cook and the eggs have cooked about halfway. Gently place heirloom tomatoes (in different sizes and colors cut into thick 1/2 inch slices) and onion slices on top of the eggs. Top with a few of the fresh basil leaves. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for approximately 20 minutes until the middle of the frittata is cooked. Remove from the oven and let the frittata set up and cool off slightly for about 5 minutes. Top with more fresh basil leaves and serve warm. Serves 6-8.

Banana Pancakes
Sift together 1 1/4 cup blanched almond flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup full fat coconut milk, 1 ripe mashed banana (about 1/2 cup), 3 large omega-3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon raw honey (optional). Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto a heated griddle greased with cooking spray. Cook the pancakes for 2-3 minutes per side until bubbling stops. Serve plain or top with honey, berries, walnuts, or almond butter. Serves 4-6.

Coconut Waffles
Mix together 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1/2 cup vanilla Fat Flush Body Protein (or your favorite protein powder), 1/4 cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup almond milk, 2 omega-3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and cinnamon to smell and taste. Pour about 1/3 cup batter into a heated waffle maker. Heat until no more steam rises from the waffle maker. Serve plain or top with honey, berries, walnuts or almond butter.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

What’s All the Hype About CrossFit?


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week101CrossFit. It seems to be all the rage. Gyms just for CrossFit are popping up everywhere with family members and friends of mine joining this latest fitness craze that has taken off like wildfire.

So I went exploring to check it out and see what this so-called “ultimate power combination” was all about. I checked out a few nearby facilities, reviewed their membership plans, and even contemplating investing in a CrossFit gym not too far from my home. But in the end, I decided CrossFit wasn’t for me (due to my longstanding lower back issues) but it might be the right fitness regimen for you! Here’s more.

Greg Glassman first came up with CrossFit back in the 1990s. Prior, Glassman first coached gymnastics at a local YMCA in Southern California and later trained professional athletes and celebrities in local gyms. He discovered high intensity workouts worked best with his clientele and later concluded bodybuilding and endurance programs should be incorporated when he began training law enforcers. In 1995, Glassman took his developed fitness technique and opened up his first official CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz. His program received immediate attention and recognition. Six years later, he launched as an open source program – meaning anybody could now use his program – that includes a library of workout and exercise demo videos, an active discussion forum and the Workout of the Day. Then a few subsequent years later, Glassman took CrossFit to another level by launching an affiliation program. Today, members of more than 9,000 affiliated gyms practice CrossFit worldwide.

Getting back to the program itself. CrossFit is a very unique strength and conditioning exercise regimen with the goal of bettering one’s muscular strength, cardio-respiratory endurance, and flexibility. This is accomplished by stringing together a perpetually varied mix of skills and drills that most commonly associated with Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, and metabolic conditioning. All movements are continuous, diverse and performed at high intensities to help the exerciser to ultimately become more dexterous with their accuracy, agility, balance, cardiovascular endurance, coordination, flexibility, power, speed, stamina, and strength.

Workouts include short but intense movements using your body weight, such as air squats, back extensions, box jumps, burpees, cartwheels, dips, handstands and handstand push-ups, hanging knees-to-elbows and toes-to-bar, hip extensions, holds, jump rope, kips, L-sits, lunges, muscle-ups, pirouettes, pull-ups, push-ups, ring dips, rope climbs, scales, and sit-ups. For distance and endurance, it’s biking, running, swimming, and rowing. Weight training is a mix of barbell snatches, bench presses, clean lifts, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, power cleans, push presses, snatches, squats, thrusters, and wallballs with a medicine ball.

The key is to constantly move, constantly challenge yourself and constantly advance your abilities; to become measurably stronger, faster, and fitter. And due to CrossFit’s intensity level, it also yields a very high calorie-burning capacity with the actual count based on the participant’s physical abilities, weight and aerobic capacity on top of the actual workout itself.

When it comes to nutrition, CrossFit devotees typically indulge on a diet rich in vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds and, in more particulars, 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates and 30 percent fat, with the principles and guidelines of the CrossFit diet duplicating those in the Paleo Diet. Hence by combining two very distinct lifestyles together, participants will not only feel better but also perform better and possibly experience mouth-dropping results.

So if you have your own curiosity about CrossFit, check out a local CrossFit gym. Most offer free passes or the first month at a discount so you can first hand determine if this fitness program is for you. You never know what you will discover unless you give it a go.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Eating a Paleo Diet


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week102A few years back, I was having digestive issues. When I couldn’t seem to figure out the cause myself, I went to see a gastroenterologist who happened to be just about nine months pregnant. After discussing my digestive problems, examining my health and reviewing my diet, she just plain out told me to stop eating processed food.

“No processed food?” I had instantly thought to myself. “No more pumpkin pancakes, chocolate cake or oatmeal raisin cookies?”

I could understand possibly see why she would suggest such a thing, but how? At the time, I ate 85% “healthy,” but to go 100%? Ouch! I loved having a treat now and then as a reformed sweet and bread eater. It seemed like the impossible and unlikely.

Instead, I began eating a gluten-free diet. After doing further research myself, to me that seemed like a better answer and route. I created a list of all the foods I could eat along with all those I needed to avoid and carried the list around with me to restaurants and grocery stores. I was determined to beat my digestive issue and finding foods that were a gluten-free seemed like a challenging fun game to me.

To quicken my story here, eating gluten-free did not solve my issues; in certain respects, it made it worse. By then, my gastroenterologist was well into her maternity leave, so I continued fiddle around with my diet on my own. In the end, I discovered on my own what worked best for me was a diet of lean poultry, fresh water fish, seafood, garden vegetables, fresh fruit, omega-3 eggs, nuts, seeds, and fresh water. That’s it. By the time I reached this point with my eating, I was complete off processed foods and dairy and on my own terms – except for an occasional frozen yogurt as a special treat. And this time, it was easily achievable – and all of my digestive issues were gone.

Fast forward my diet quest further, and it wasn’t until I saw a chef on TV making banana ice cream, and I Googling the recipe afterward, that I connected the dots and realized that my eating habits were actually Paleo. A diet rich in the foods that can be fished and hunted as listed above plus grass-fed red meat and healthful oils – olive, flaxseed and nut – and all free of any food additives. An avid Paleolithic practitioner may also break down their diet and consume 56–65% of their foods from animals and 36–45% from plants. Foods not Paleo are dairy, grains and grain-like seeds, legumes, refined vegetable oils, salt, starchy vegetables, refined sugar, and processed food. Bingo! I my diet had a name and a following!

The Paleo diet (also known as the Paleolithic, Caveman, Stone Age, or Hunter-Gatherer Diet) may be one of the most talked about nutritional plans of today, but it actually first became popular back in the 1970’s when gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin, MD self-published “The Stone Age Diet: Based on In-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man.” In his writings, he claimed humans are carnivorous animals and should feast on a diet a Paleolithic diet of our ancestors – mainly fats, protein, and small amounts of carbs. Dr. Voegtlin came to this conclusion after treating various digestive problems, including colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion. In the subsequent years, Stanley Boyd Eaton, MD; Melvin Konner, MD, PhD; anthropologist Marjorie Shostak; Staffan Lindeberg, MD, PhD and others followed and supported Dr. Voegtlin’s findings with their own published articles and books.

Today, physicians around the globe often recommend the Paleo diet to their patients suffering from serious illnesses or diseases and digestive issues, like myself. Studies also show that eating a Paleo diet benefits “healthy” individuals by helping to reduce their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and most chronic degenerative diseases. It is known to slow down or reverse progression of autoimmune diseases, improve or eliminate acne; better mental outlook and clarity, aide in losing weight if one is overweight, and increase energy levels, athletic performances and libido.

For me, I’ve never felt better since following a Paleo diet; eating a “truly healthy” and process-free diet without any man-made foods and additives. So my question to you is why wait until you are sickly or possibly facing a life threatening illness to change what you are digesting in your body? Eating man-made foods, which misleadingly looks more appealing and may taste more appetizing, is simply not what your body needs or was originally intended to digest and breakdown. Just a thought to ponder. You have one body and one life. Treat it like the lifelong investment is truly is and watch what you digest. Can’t do like I had once thought? Sure you can! What it really comes down to simply mind over matter, wellness over weakness.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Unconventional Motivational Tips to Get or Stay Fit


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week104I am often asked how I stay so motivated to go to the gym and remain fit. With me, it’s easy since going to a fitness center and working out is actually a pure passion of mine. In this sense, I realize I am fortunate, and it also chimes in perfectly with the saying, ‘Do what you love and never work.’ Hence, “working out” isn’t work to me; it’s fun. I have always loved it and love seeing the results on my body.

While I am very self-motivated and self-disciplined, I also expose myself to self-created motivational goodies, no matter how big or how small, that pass in front of my very eyes during any given day of the week, if not all. It’s a means of surrounding myself with positive images that reinforce my chosen path to live, eat, sleep, and breath a healthy and fit lifestyle and keep me in the mental state of mind over matter. Not that I need to be encouraged, but with temptations everywhere, it’s just nice to have an added third-party support.

Below are just a few unconventional motivational ways you can incorporate into you everyday life and surround yourself to stay inspired you and remain on track – may it to be lose weight, change your eating habits, or just to maintain – as staying in shape is much mental as it is physical.

Swimsuit Catalogs – Great for when at home!
These are just not for the female shopper or guy gawker! Turn the pages of these booklets and get inspired and motivated by the fit models clad in skimpy bikinis. Leave the catalogs open to the pages of the model(s) that inspire you most. Tear a few out pages and place them strategically on your fridge’s door, bathroom mirror, closet entrance, or other location(s) in your home.

Social Media – Great when on the go!
Are you a social media user? If so, this will be easy for you. Pick your favorite network – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ or other – and follow users who post, tweet, and pin tips and tricks to staying fit … including videos of exercises, diet recipes, links to informative articles, motivational quotes, and photos of inspirational end results.

Trophy Clothing – Great when grabbing a snack!
Dying to get into a pair of favorite old jeans or a certain bikini for an upcoming trip? Is your top feeling snug or no longer fitting? Place that article of clothing upfront and right inside your refrigerator so when you open the fridge door – bingo! – it’s the first thing you see. Just its mere presence will immediate remind you of your goal and remind you to choose your food wisely when in the fridge.

Bathroom Scale – Great to stay on track!
You may prefer not to, but getting on the bathroom scale every day at the same time is another means to staying on track with losing weight or maintaining your goal. Keep in mind it’s natural for your body to fluctuate by a few pounds, but, by getting on the scale, it will assist you to stay in check and help prevent you from gaining any unsuspecting weight.

The Sports Bra – Great reality check!
This is easily accomplished if you live alone or with a partner. Walk around your home a little bit longer, prior to getting fully dressed for the day, in your bra and panties, sports bra and shorts/sweat pants, or another motivating combination that reveals yourself. This forces you to see your body as it is right now and should help motivate you to lose the pounds or continue to maintain your goal weight.

The Wristband – Great reminder!
Some of us eat right-handed, others left. Whichever hand you naturally gravitate to when grabbing a utensil, this is the one you wear either a special wristband or bracelet as another visual reminder you are what you eat and you need to stay true to your fitness goal. Perhaps it’s a present to yourself for reaching your fitness goal. Whatever you choose to wear, keep it on to keep you going.

It’s all mind over matter as the purpose for all of these tactics listed below is to simply surround yourself with positive and encouraging reinforcements and influences as an extra built-in support system and to top off your already existing diet plan and regular workouts. Just sneak in the above visual motivators into your days and soon you, too, will be the one your friends turn to and ask, “How do stay motivated to workout and stay fit?”

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

The Health Benefits from Riding a Horse



week100I have loved horses as long as I can remember. To me, there is something alluring about these large mammals where you can whip your leg around their high backs and feel like you are flying across fields and sailing through the wind. It’s the feeling of total detachment from the world, a sensation of total freedom. When you are on a horse, the world is at your feet and all feels obtainable.

My passion for horses is most likely why I had my son start to ride horses on a leadline by the age of two at the barn right down the street from my parents’ house and my daughter soon after she could walk. Cassandra would hang onto the horn of the Western saddle and smile with great glee. By two, she was taking weekly leadline rides on “Sunshine,” by four weekly English riding lessons, and on her fifth birthday, Cassandra competed in her very first horseshow on “Penny.” Today, my daughter proudly and lovingly cares for her horse “Emma,” a grey Connemara and Irish Sport Horse mix breed, and rides as a junior on Stonehill College’s varsity equestrian team.

To some, saddling up and riding a horse may seem more like a fun time on the back of a horse in the fresh air than an actual workout. After all, the great strong horse is doing most of the work, right, with its cantering and jumping plus carrying the weight of the rider?

My daughter would quickly tell you “no” and rightly so. The rider actually benefits just as much, if not more, than the four-legged mount, as horseback riding offers the rider both physical and mental perks like many mainstream sports.

The psychological benefits from riding horses are plentiful. It reduces stress levels of the rider, improves self-confidence and concentration abilities, teaches and instills self-discipline and patience, encourages risk-taking, and offers socializing and comradely just by the mere interaction with fellow riders, instructors, vets, barn help, and others.

In addition to the mental benefits, the physical health perks are just as rewarding. Let’s start with calorie loss. You can burn a decent amount of calories when riding horses, depending on your age, body mass, and the intensity of your ride. At a walk, you can burn 150-200 calories per hour, trot 400-550, and a full gallop can burn off 700 calories for a full hour!

Riding horses provides great muscle development and conditioning in the rider and requires intense muscle use and memory. Riders strengthen their arms, legs, thighs, back, and pelvis muscles, especially from the contracting and relaxing of their muscles in an attempt to stay on the horse and remain balanced. They develop a stronger core, better sense of balance, and enhanced eye hand coordination; hence why riding horses is often offered as a therapeutic exercise from those suffering from physical challenges. Moreover, riding increases the range of the motion of the rider’s joints and improves their upper respiration and circulation of blood flow in their body.

There is additional muscle strengthening and extra calories burned also from carrying saddles around, hauling hay and feed, carrying buckets of water, shoveling droppings, repositioning jumps, moving trunks, and more. Let’s face it; riding horses is a very physical and demanding activity.

So when given the opportunity to ride a horse, get your boots on, grab a riding helmet, and saddle up! Your joy ride will give back to your body, heart, and mind immensely not to mention put a big smile on you inside and out.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Working Out While You’re at Work


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week99Over the years, I often come in contact with individuals who right off the bat tell me they just don’t have time to go to the gym or can’t find any time during the day for a workout. I often smile and listen to their various excuses as why they can’t. For some reason, they feel a need to confess and confide in me.

For the most part, it’s hogwash. There are NO excuses as it’s all about priorities, remaining discipline and focused, and being true to you.

But let’s just say one is really too busy to find the time to work out, especially during the workweek with juggling work, family, and home. Well then I say, get creative! Find ways to whittle it in with easy moves that will yield results.

Below are 20 simple exercises, including isometrics and cardio, you can discreetly sneak in during the day to boost your energy levels, relieve stress, and burn extra calories.

1. Wake up 15 minutes earlier to walk and down the steps in your home for 15 minutes. Increase the time if you can.

2. Park your car the furthest spot away from your office building, grocery story, shopping mall, etc. and briskly walk to your destination.

3. Always skip the elevator and take the stairs instead, both ways, up and down.

4. Replace your desk chair with a height appropriate, stability ball. It’s great for your core!

5. Neck rotations at your desk by dropping your chin and rolling your neck then raise your chin up and bend your neck to each side.

6. Shoulder raises; raise them up to your ears, hold, and then relax.

7. Wrist stretches while sitting. Extend one arm out with your palm up. With your other hand, grab your fingers and lightly pull them down to give your forearm with a good stretch.

8. Clench your fists and flex your forearms and count to 10.

9. Hand stretches; squeeze a pen and focus on your forearm muscles.

10. Push your palms together, positioned in opposite directions, and hold for 20 seconds.

11. Ab crunches; sit up in your chair with feet flat on floor and arms to your sides. Tighten your abs and keep tightening them for 5 seconds. Release and then repeat again.

12. Glut squeezes while sitting or standing. Lift your butt about a full inch off your seat squeeze your butt cheeks together. Hold for a full 30-60 seconds and then relax. Repeat.

13. Thigh squeezes while sitting in your chair. Place your fist between your knees and squeeze your knees together. Hold for a count of 10.

14. Just for the ladies … kegels … whenever you are sitting.

15, Leg extensions while sitting in your chair. Lift one leg off the floor and extend it straight out. Hold for two seconds. Lower the foot, but stop a few inches before you reach the floor. Hold for five seconds, and then switch to the opposite side. Repeat 15 times on each side.

16. Toe raises with your heels firmly on the ground when sitting at your desk for a full 30-60 seconds. Repeat.

17. Spend at least half of your lunch break taking a brisk walk outside.

18. Walk to the restroom that is the furthest away in the building.

19. Walk to a co-worker’s area to deliver a message instead of sending an email.

20. Keep your leg muscles stretched. Every time your finish a task or once every hour, stand up and walk for 5 minutes.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Healthy Banana Desserts



week98Who doesn’t love bananas? Who doesn’t love desserts? Combine them together and it’s a win-win sweet ending to any meal or a delicious treat when snacking in-between.

Perhaps you remember my mentioning how bananas are my Mother’s favorite fruit. In “The Bulging Benefits of Bananas,” I shared how Mom would always buy a bunch or two from the grocer, encourage us to snack on these white soft fruits every day, and how she would add several into delicious homemade meals and, better yet, desserts.

I also cited how bananas are loaded with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, fiber, B vitamins, tryptophan, and the good sugars – glucose, fructose and sucrose. And how eating this fruit daily has ample health benefits, such as fighting depression, curing hangovers, relieving morning sickness, and helping to protect against kidney cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and blindness, and more. Plus benefits one who never think of – reducing the itch and swell of a mosquito bite by placing the inside of the banana peel against it and the same for removing warts.

But let’s get back to the desserts. Bananas make an excellent ingredient to add to cakes, cookies, pies, puddings, and more. They are especially delish when paired up with peanut butter, oats, apples, or dark chocolate.

Since healthy desserts are often hard to find, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite banana desserts. Try one or try them all!

Banana, Apple and Almond Butter Smoothie
In a blender, add 2 frozen bananas (peeled and cut in chunks), 1 medium apple (cored and quartered), 1/4 cup almond butter, 1/2 cup almond milk (or soy milk, non-fat milk, or coconut water), and 1 pinch nutmeg (optional). Blend until smooth. Add ice for additional thickness.

Banana, Apple and Walnut Bread
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch loaf pan. In a medium-sized bowl, mash 2 ripe bananas with a fork. Add 1 peeled and diced apple, 1/2 cup Sucanat or Stevia, 1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour, 1/2 cup applesauce, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the bowl, and mix well. Pour into greased pan, and sprinkle with chopped 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Banana Carrot Cake with Blackberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mash 2 large and ripe
 bananas with a fork, add 3 eggs and 2 tablespoons coconut oil and whisk together. Add 3/4 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup rolled oats, 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional), 1 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of saffron. Stir. Shred two carrots and ground 1 cup walnuts. Add to the mixture and stir. Grease the inside of 2 large 8-inch tartlet tins with coconut oil. Pour the batter into the tins and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve the cake while warm and top each with fresh blackberries and roasted almonds.

Banana Cream Pie
Peel 4-6 ripe bananas and cut in half. Place in a Ziploc bag or container and freeze overnight. For the crust, add 2 cups of unroasted, unsalted almonds into a food processor and process until ground. With processor still running, add a touch of maple syrup in a slow thin drizzle. Press crust mixture into a medium size pie plate with your finger, spatula, or wooden spoon. Next, fill crust with a generous amount of banana ice cream using a spatula or wooden spoon to evenly distribute and smooth out. Top pie with fresh fruit – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries.

Banana Foster
Peel 3 large firm ripe bananas and cut into medallions. Heat one tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add bananas. Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until tender and turns brown. Serve warm over banana ice cream or Greek yogurt.

Banana Ice Cream
Peel 2 medium bananas and cut into medallions. Freeze until it hardens, about an hour or two. Remove and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. Add 3 tablespoons almond butter and teaspoons honey and blend OR add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons coconut milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Both combos are delish or toss in fresh berries. You can also just eat just plain. Transfer to freezable container and freeze for a few more hours. Then serve and indulge!

Banana Muffins
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mash 2 very ripe bananas with a fork until mostly smooth. Stir in 2 eggs, coconut 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon and apple cider vinegar. Additional optional add-ins include: 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/4 cup chopped nuts or seeds, 1/4 cup shredded carrot or shredded zucchini, 1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins, or 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips. Mix together 1 cup almond flour, sifted 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Add to mixture until well blended. Let batter rest for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the coconut flour to absorb the liquids. Fill paper-lined or well-greased muffin tins 2/3 full and bake 15 to 20 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick. Cool for 10 minutes then remove muffins to a wire rack. Makes 12 regular-size muffins.

Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Mash 3 ripe bananas and mix with the 3 cups oats (preferably not instant), 1/2 cup skim milk and 1 egg. Add in 2 tablespoons Stevia (or other sugar substitute), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter (optional). Other optional add-ins area 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or raisins. Grease a cookie tray with cooking spray and spoon the mixture on to make around 9 large cookies. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Store in an airtight container.

Banana Peanut Butter Pudding
Puree 15 ounces chickpeas (or 15 ounces garbanzo beans), 1 banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon honey in a blender, food processor, or hand blender. Spoon into serving bowls and refrigerate before serving.

Frozen Chocolate-Covered Bananas
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Peel and cut 4 large ripe bananas into thirds crosswise. Insert a Popsicle stick into each piece of banana. Cover each piece with melted dark chocolate using a rubber spatula and sprinkle with shredded coconut or crushed nuts. Place the bananas on the baking sheet and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours. Indulge or store airtight in the freezer for up to one week.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

The Right Foods for a Healthy Heart


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week95You workout, you eat well, but do you also include foods that are especially good for your heart? Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of American deaths in and stroke is number four?

My own father had high blood pressure and passed away at age 79 after his second stroke. We thought he would outlive us all by his disciplined way of life through exercise and staying on top of his weight plus his exuberant zest for life. But he never told of us of his first stroke – probably not to worry us – for if he had I would have watched his diet choices closely and checked in on his daily exercise and activities.

Mom had low blood pressure practically her entire life until she hit her mid-70s when high blood pressure just genetically kicked in. Mom also began to slow down in her later years (she’s now 89) and exercises less. But shortly after Dad passed, Mom began having a series of strokes but survived them all most likely due to heart-healthy diet.

So while coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease may be in the genes handed to you, you can control your daily diet, which can help prevent, avoid, and stop a serious outcome. Keeping your heart healthy and strong and giving it the added nutritional boost it needs and deserves is in your hands by choosing to eat the right foods for excellent vascular health. Luckily, there are many. Below is just for starters.

Apples are rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol levels and contain a wonderful antioxidant flavonoid mixture of quercetin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, kaempferol and other compounds to stop the “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and prevent plaque built up in arteries.

One of the world’s healthiest foods, avocados are crammed with monounsaturated fat and two key carotenoid antioxidants—lycopene and beta-carotene. The fruit, which is often mistaken for a vegetable, will help reduce your LDL levels while raising the amount of “good” HDL cholesterol in your body. The greatest source of carotenoids in the avocado is in the dark green flesh that lies just beneath the skin so be certain not to slice into that dark green portion any more than necessary when peeling.

Bananas are loaded with potassium and potassium helps to maintain your normal heart function and the balance of sodium and water in your body. Potassium also helps your kidneys excrete excess sodium, which in turn balances your blood pressure. Just one banana has 422 milligrams, about 12 percent of your recommended daily amount.

“Beans, beans; they are good for the heart, the more you eat, the more …” Healthier you are! Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber, just a half-cup of cooked beans daily helps to lower your cholesterol and prevents absorption. Beans also have flavonoids, which help to reduce your risk of a heart attack and stroke by hindering the adhesion of platelets in the blood. Choose chickpeas or black, kidney, lima, navy, pinto beans, and legumes.

Full of anti-inflammatories, just a cup a day of berries — blueberries, strawberries, black berries, raspberries, cranberries, or bilberries — will help to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer by increasing your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol while also lowering your blood pressure. Eat your favorites!

Dark Chocolate
Ahhh, the health benefits when indulging in dark chocolate! Eating moderate amounts of flavanol-rich dark chocolate — just one-ounce daily of 70 percent cocoa solids — has a blood-thinning effect, benefiting your cardiovascular health by reducing inflammation while also lowering your blood pressure due to its plentiful levels of nitric oxide.

Top your morning oatmeal or sprinkle into your shakes as just a little goes a long way for your heart with flaxseed! Multiple published researches indicate flaxseed reduces the risk and fight everything from heart and lung disease to diabetes and certain cancers with its soluble and insoluble fibers, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and lignans.

Green Tea
Drink up! Studies show drinking 12 ounces a day reduces your heart attack chances by 50 percent thanks to the catechins (antioxidants) found in green tea by expanding your heart artery and keeping them clear hence improving your blood flow. It also reduces your cholesterol and triglycerides levels and lowers your risk of developing gum disease, which is often linked to heart problems.

Leafy Greens
The darker the better when it comes to leafy greens, which are highest in magnesium, lutein, folate, potassium, fiber, and Vitamin E. The combination helps to lower your blood pressure, triglycerides while increasing the good HDL cholesterol. Fresh spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are your best bets! Increase your daily servings for an added boost.

A great source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats with low levels of saturated fats, nuts provide much needed fiber in the daily diet. Also filled with of vitamins and minerals. Go for the walnuts if picking just one. Pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and peanuts are also excellent.

Full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium, this fiber-rich superfood contains beta glucan, a soluble fiber that lowers your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. The oats also helps to keep your digestive system healthy and keep your arteries clear. Add oats to smoothies for an extra lift.

Oily Fish
Salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are all super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids and contain astaxanthin, a very powerful antioxidant. All help to reduce blood pressure and clotting plus help prevent irregular heart rhythms. Eat two servings a week to reduce risk of a heart attack by up to 30 percent. Choose wild over farm-raised.

Olive Oil
Full of monounsaturated fats, olive oil reduces your bad LDL cholesterol and lowers your risk of developing heart disease. Only two tablespoons a day is all you need. Extra-virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that reduce inflammation and help prevent certain cancers. Remember to store your olive oil in a dark, cool spot in a tightly covered container.

Don’t buy or eat pomegranates? You might want to start now. Their powerful punch of polyphenols — including anthocyanins and tannins — help to reduce the buildup of the plaque in your arteries and lower your blood pressure.

Who would have guessed? Unsalted and unbuttered popcorn, which also happens to be a whole grain, is packed with polyphenols — antioxidants linked to improving your heart and cardiovascular health — and boasting three times more polyphenols than beans and four times more than berries.

An excellent protein substitute for red meat, soy is a high-quality protein containing high levels of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is also low in saturated fat, helping to reduce your triglycerides, preventing cardiovascular disease and keep your heart strong and healthy. Eat natural sources of soy, such as edamame, tempeh, or organic silken tofu.

Whole Grains
Just 25 grams of whole grains a day is all you need to reduce your risk of heart disease. Whole grains contain bran, germ, and the starchy endosperm and provide and high soluble fiber to help to keep your heart healthy by lowering your “bad” LDL plus the antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols found in whole grains protect your against coronary disease.

Countless studies have findings showing people who drink moderately are less likely to have heart disease than those who don’t. Up to one glass for women and two for men can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by raising the “good” HDL cholesterol while decreasing inflammation and “thinning the blood.”

Yogurt? Yes, yogurt! Older women who regularly eat four ounces of yogurt have less thickening of the carotid arteries’ walls, lowering the risk of a stroke and heart attack. Yogurt eaters also have healthier gums due to the probiotics.

Changing your diet is a great start.  A good rule of thumb for a healthy heart is to also control your portion size and eat more of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods and less of high-calorie, high-sodium foods. This means more fruits and vegetables and eliminating refine, processed, and fast foods. Choose lean meats, skinless poultry and fresh water fish. Select low-fat dairy products and chow down on egg whites versus whole.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

The Biggest Loser Resort – A Fit and Fun Getaway


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week97When it comes time to book some R&R, the choices are endless. In addition to the typical island and European holidays, there are bicycle tours, family vacations, ski trips, honeymoons, sailing adventures, girls’/guys’ weekends, kayaking excursions, dream destinations, golf outings, spa retreats, tennis resorts, safari expeditions, hiking treks, maiden voyages, ski trips, boot camps … and getaways just for weight loss.

A weight loss vacation might not sound alluring or all that exciting, but for those who are serious but dropping the pounds and need a little assistance to jump start their journey, today’s programs have advanced to have a pampering feel. Now in breathtaking destinations, these luxurious getaways include beautiful four- and five-start accommodations, delicious low-calorie meals from world-class chefs, expert advice from the best, engaging group activities, scenic outdoor excursions, rejuvenating spa treatments, new friendships, unforgettable memories, and more in addition to losing those unwanted pounds – the whole point of this getaway in case one almost forgot.

One popular weight loss escape is the Biggest Loser Resort – yes, as in the TV reality show, and yes, it truly does exit – but minus the cameras, lights, and Hollywood hoopla. But you do get to live out the fantasy! You do still get an attentive crew to help with your transformation and will receive the utmost attention and support from certified trainers, registered dietitians, holistic nutritionists, life coaches, and licensed professional counselors. Participants as young 14 are welcome.

For those who are overweight and are better off losing the weight for multiple reasons, the supportive environment at the Biggest Loser Resort is ideal. The award-winning program (see special note below) is designed to help their guests not only to succeed and become lighter on the scale but improve their aerobic endurance, tone their muscles, increase their flexibility, detoxify, and most of all gain the much needed confidence – a CAN DO attitude – that they CAN lose the weight and they CAN keep it off … for good. They learn which exercises work best for them, the correct forms, how to prepare healthy meals, and more empowering instructions.

Guests receive an outlined itinerary daily that includes seven hours of exercise, educational lectures, and three meals and dessert for 1200 calories. Days start early at 6:00 a.m. and are jam-packed throughout and into the early evening with the various workouts such as stretching classes, toning sessions, circuit training, core work, strength training, yoga, aerobics, water aerobics, Pilates, Zumba®, kickboxing, scenic hikes, indoor cycling, and more plus. The educational classes discuss weight loss strategies, meal planning, emotional eating, cooking demos, and more plus how to continue with the Biggest Loser program once they return home. Nighttime is free downtime where guests can indulge in spa treatments, time with newly discovered friends, or kicking back poolside with a good book.

Also worth mentioning is the spa cuisine, which is a welcome dining experience in itself. Organic vegetable omelets, oatmeal with berries or fruit and granola are just some of the delicious healthy choices for breakfast. Wraps, soups, and salads for lunch. Shakes, hummus and veggies, or homemade granola nut bars for a snack. Guests can choose mouth-watering fresh fish or free-range chicken for dinner and heavenly cinnamon apples or coconut haystacks for dessert. All just delish and will make you forget you are actually dieting.

There are all four all-inclusive Biggest Loser Resort locations in four very different settings – the Spa at Eaglewood in Chicago, IL; the Spa at Fitness in Ridge Ivins, UT; the Spa at Fitness Ridge in Malibu, CA; and Spa Alexis in Niagara, NY. Pick the destination that suits you best and will inspire you most! Guests may choose private, semi-private, and double occupancy accommodations priced by the number of selected weeks. Two weeks is an ideal minimum stay. All locations, except for Niagara, also offer the “Town Program” to local residents who do not need the overnights. Costs include meals, daily activities, and educational series. Spa treatments are additional. Amenities at each location vary. Review each location before deciding. Financing is offered American Health Care Lending. For reservations, call 877-550-1786 or visit

Nearby Activities
Well, you are on a mission here; to learn new fitness and nutritional ways for a healthier you. Clearly this is your main focus so any nearby activities and attractions may only be distractions and should not be of top of mind on this getway. My advice is put all your eggs into one basket. Maximize your time and attention to achieving your goal at the resort and learning how to best continue the path of success after you return home.

Getting There
This of course depends of which Biggest Loser Resort location you select. If you are flying to the Spa at Eaglewood in hoping to find time to play on its championship golf course, Chicago has two international airports, O’Hare (ORD), 12.9 miles from the resort, and Midway (MDW), 25 miles. When choosing the Spa at Fitness Ridge Ivins with its glorious location near the Big Red Mountains, your best bet is to fly into St. George Municipal (SGU), only 22 miles away. If the Pacific Ocean is calling your name and you have your heart set on the Spa Fitness Ridge in Malibu, Burbank Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is your closest airport, 34 miles from the resort. You may also chose to fly into Los Angeles (LAX), 46 miles away, or Long Beach (LGB), 55 miles. Book your flight to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (BUF) if you are headed to the Spa Alexis nestled in a 300-acre outdoor wonderland complete with it’s own private lake. Car rental, taxi, and shuttle service are available from all above airports once you arrive.

Special Note
The Biggest Loser Resort is award-winning! It received Spa Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Silver Sage Award for “Best Weight Loss Spa,” placed second in Spas of America’s Top 50 Spas, and voted Best for Hiking in the SpaFinder Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award competition. The resort also won SpaFinder Readers’ Choice Awards in multiple categories, including “Best Fitness Program,” “Best for Weight Loss,” “Best for Hiking,” and “Best for Affordability,” and other awards.

So if buddying up and working with a trainer has always produced the best results for you, then pack up your sneakers, workout clothes, and bathing suit and head to the closest airport for the most alluring Biggest Loser Resort. The time is now to get a kick-start on your weight loss program. If you do, you’ll never look back.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.