Sleep, Snooze, Nap, Doze, and Dream

sleeping puppies

These dogs know what’s up! (Photo: PicPetz.com)

We’ve all heard people say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” but what you might not know is that you’ll be dead a lot sooner if you skimp on sleep. You might think you’re getting more ‘life’ out of your day by going to bed late or waking up early, but even though you’ll have more time for the moment, you’re cutting your life short.

I came across and article recently that really made me realize how important sleep is. I always heard it was important, but I never knew sleep was that important. I’ve compiled lots of research to help you understand how important sleep really is. Health isn’t just about diet and exercise; it’s also about living a healthy lifestyle. This means taking care of yourself, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sleep plays a role in all three!

So let’s start with the basics. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Getting fewer hours of sleep can lead to stress, irritability, moodiness, poor concentration, grumpiness, and sluggishness. You might even experience slowed speech, poor judgement and decision making, impaired memory, and the inability to multitask. This is common sense. We’ve all had days when our brains are foggy from lack of sleep.

Here’s where it gets really scary. According to the Huffington Post, just one week of getting 6 hours of sleep per night can lead to over 700 genetic changes. If you only get 6 hours of sleep for one week, you’ll have four times the risk of stroke and a 48% higher risk of dying of heart disease when compared to someone getting adequate sleep. Lack of sleep also increases your risk for osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Healthline explains in great detail how a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. If you don’t get enough sleep, your hormones get thrown off, particularly leptin and ghrelin. These hormones help regulate your appetite by telling your brain when you’re hungry and when you’ve had enough to eat. Those who average only 6 hours of sleep per night are 27% more likely to be overweight. Not only is this because your hormones are confused, but also because you’ll be lacking the mental and physical energy to exercise.

Have you ever noticed that after a late night or early morning, you want food? Whenever I don’t get enough sleep, I always want carbs. I also want to sit on the couch and be lazy, but that’s beside the point…

Food cravings + poor judgement from lack of sleep = unhealthy food choices (and ultimately weight gain if repeated over time).

Now you’re probably thinking, “well, I can always catch up on sleep during the weekend or take a nap later.” This is true, but only to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong – naps are my best friend, and if I could, I’d nap every day. Sleeping in on weekends and napping will help, but they won’t fix the problem. Think of it like debt. Naps are like paying only the minimum monthly payment on a credit card. It’ll keep you afloat, but you’ll never be fully caught up. I’m definitely not telling you to stop napping – I’m a HUGE fan! Just remember, playing catch-up on sleep isn’t the best.

Now that you know the facts about lack of sleep, you just need some tips to help you get enough shut-eye! My next post will give you tips on how to fall asleep faster, get enough sleep, and sleep better throughout the night.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to nap today!! I’ll be taking my own advice 🙂

 

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Time for Something New: Recipe Makeovers!

Hello Readers!!

I know it’s been forever since I’ve posted! I’ve been so busy.. I know, excuses excuses, right? Well, I’m trying to make more time for blogging because I really don’t want to quit! I want to keep writing and sharing with all of you.

Lately, it’s been hard for me to find the time to experiment and make new recipes. So, I think it’s time for something new! I’m going to start doing some easy recipe makeovers for you!

I’m currently working two jobs, and my boyfriend works full time. We rarely have time to sit down and have a nice meal together, so lots of our recipes have to be quick, cheap, and easy to make. Well, unfortunately, quick, cheap, and easy foods are usually highly processed frozen meals, boxed mixes, or other unhealthy foods. I’ve been trying my best to make our meals healthy while still keeping them cheap, quick, and easy.

Most of my recipe makeovers just swap a few not-so-healthy ingredients for healthier ones. These makeovers aren’t really my recipes; rather, they are someone else’s, and I’ve just made a few substitutions. I haven’t done a recipe makeover in a few days, but I’ll post each time we have a made-over meal.

If you have any ideas for recipes I can makeover, let me know in the comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas; even Pinterest leaves me wanting more!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Healthy Homemade Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

peanut butter ice cream

Have you ever eaten way too much ice cream and it makes your stomach a little upset? Well, I did that last night because this ice cream was so good I couldn’t stop eating it!! I had two good-sized bowls, and I still have a ton left for tonight! I can’t wait to eat some more. It’s just so so so good! As long as you love peanut butter (who doesn’t??), you’ll LOVE this ice cream recipe!

Thanks to my awesome boyfriend for getting me a Cuisinart ice cream maker, I can finally make my own recipes! So, grab your ice cream maker, a spoon, and get ready to dig in and indulge!

Ingredients:

(For 4 servings)

  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup unsweetened original almond milk
  • 3/4 cup smooth all natural peanut butter
  • 1-2 Tbs. honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • Dark chocolate chips or chunks (to sprinkle on top)

Directions:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together all ingredients, except chocolate chips, until well-blended and smooth.
  2. Follow the directions on your ice cream maker. The directions for mine say to turn on the ice cream maker and then pour in the mix. It took about 12 minutes.
  3. If you like your ice cream soft-serve, go ahead and get a serving and sprinkle some chocolate chips on top!
  4. If you like your ice cream a little firmer, put it in a container in the freezer for a while until it’s how you like it. Then add chocolate chips, and eat up!

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did! I’m a peanut butter addict, so I couldn’t get enough of this ice cream. Try adding different ingredients instead of chocolate chips, such as almonds, raisins, or banana slices, and let me know what toppings you like best!

 

Healthy Campfire Foods & Snacks

Photo courtesy of HealthCastle.com

Photo courtesy of HealthCastle.com

I love summer! The best part about summer is spending time outside with family and friends. We usually have quite a few bonfires during the summer (actually, we just had one last week!). Campfires are all about eating s’mores and hot dogs, but if you’re trying to eat healthy like me, it can be hard to find something equally as delicious to enjoy!

No worries! I’ve compiled a list of some easy and delicious campfire foods for a backyard bonfire, camping trip, or even just an indoor stove-top flame.

Grilled Fruit

  • Apples
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • Bananas

Top your fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a drizzle of honey, a handful of raisins, some peanut butter, or even a little brown sugar!

Grilled Veggies

  • Peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Asparagus
  • Green Beans

Starchy Snacks

  • Popcorn (just the kernels, not the store-bought kind)
  • Corn on the Cob
  • Sweet Potatoes

Small Meals

  • Burritos/Fajitas (whole wheat tortilla filled with beans, salsa, chicken, cheese, etc.)
  • Grilled Chicken, Shrimp, or Fish
  • Kabobs (with veggies, fruit, chicken, or shrimp)
  • Peppers stuffed with quinoa and cheese
  • Pita Bread Pizzas (whole wheat pita stuffed with cheese, veggies, etc.)

It’ll take some experimenting with all of these to get them just right. It really depends on how you like your campfire foods cooked, how hot your fire is, and what equipment you have with you. For most of these foods, simply wrap them in foil and set near the coals or on a cooking rack. the popcorn and kabobs will take a little more equipment, but if you have it on hand, try it out!

I hope these healthy campfire foods make it easier for all of you to stay healthy while enjoying time with friends. It can be hard to eat healthy foods while socializing, especially when everyone else is indulging in marshmallows and s’mores. Remember: don’t deprive yourself of a s’more; just eat one! But remember to fill your belly with healthy foods too!

 

 

There is NO such thing as PERFECT

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Read that title again. Memorize it. Repeat it. This is what I tell myself multiple times per day so I don’t drive myself completely crazy trying to be something I’m not.

Lately, I’ve been struggling to remember that there is no such thing as perfect. No one is perfect. Nothing is perfect. It’s our so-called “imperfections” that make us truly beautiful. Don’t let anyone ever convince you that you need to be perfect, because it simply doesn’t exist. We are all perfectly imperfect.

So why have I been struggling to remember that there is no such thing as perfect? Well, after making the switch from clean eating to healthy eating, I relaxed a bit on my healthy eating and my exercising. I took a couple weeks off from working out, and I treated myself more often than I normally do. I spent more time relaxing and watching tv, and I napped more often. I was in need of some stress relief, so I relaxed for a while.

Well, obviously, when you spend hours each day watching Netflix and taking naps, you’re bound to put on a few pounds… especially if you just started re-introducing foods into your diet that you haven’t eaten in a while (for me, it was cheese, milk, cereal, and bread). So, I gained a few pounds. Nothing serious. My jeans fit a bit snug, and my shorts are too tight. But it really got me concerned – way more than it should have.

At first, I was all upset, and I wanted to go back on a strict eat clean diet and exercise it all off. But then, I realized that I’ve been happier, more relaxed, and less stressed now that I’ve been less strict with my dieting and exercising. I tried to remind myself that moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle. And then, I reminded myself that there is no such thing as perfect.

There is no perfect body type. Even though society and the media pressure us to have a “perfect” body and “perfect” appearance, there isn’t one specific body type that is desirable for everyone. We are all different, and we all should embrace our unique bodies!

There is no perfect personality. I try to get along with everyone and be nice to everyone, but no matter what, there will always be people who don’t like me. And that’s totally fine. No one’s personality can be compatible with everyone.

There is no perfect diet. No matter what, you can’t eat a perfect diet without driving yourself insane. Try going even a week without one so-called “cheat” food. No salad dressing, no store-bought bread, no mints, no cheese… can you imagine??

I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. Your best friend isn’t perfect. Your significant other is not perfect. Your family isn’t perfect. But does that make you love those people any less? No? Exactly! So they love you the same whether or not you’re perfect. (Which is good, because none of us can be perfect!)

So, keep this in mind: there is NO such thing as perfect. Don’t go trying to make yourself perfect; just surround yourself with people who already think you are.

 

Healthy Snacks to Satisfy your Cravings

Today, I’ve been outside enjoying the spring sunshine! It’s just so beautiful out here! I decided to make a cute, helpful chart of healthy snacks that will satisfy any cravings you might be having.

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How are you spending this gorgeous day?

Healthy Eating versus Clean Eating

Hello readers! I’m not sure how many of you have noticed, but recently, I changed my blog a little bit. I decided I’m going to focus more on healthy eating instead of strictly clean eating. There are a lot of reasons why I chose to do this, so I thought it would be nice to share them with all of you and hear your opinions as well!

For about a year and a half, I was a clean eater, meaning I didn’t eat many animal products, processed foods, chemicals, or sugars. I thought this was the best diet for me because I wanted to be healthier and manage my weight. However, after doing more research on the Eat-Clean Diet and taking a nutrition class here at my university, I learned that this kind of diet isn’t really best for me.

Tosca Reno, creator of the Eat-Clean Diet, isn’t a doctor (neither am I), so you have to be skeptical when reading her book. I’m not saying my advice is any better than hers; this is simply why I am changing my eating habits.

Here are some reasons why I decided to make the switch from clean eating to healthy eating.

Moderation

Over the year and a half I was eating clean, I was almost obsessed with eating the right foods. This diet didn’t allow any room for moderation. Instead, I am focusing on eating so-called unhealthy foods in moderation. For example, I’m now allowing myself to eat salad dressing and other condiments as long as I eat my vegetables. I’m also letting myself treat myself whenever I have a craving, as long as I eat my fruits and vegetables that day.

Saturated Fats

The Eat-Clean Diet preaches that saturated fats are unhealthy and should be avoided. However, there is no evidence that says that saturated fats are unhealthy, so there really isn’t a need to eliminate them from your diet. I’ve reintroduced milk, cheese, and cream into my diet. Let me tell you, I’ve missed cheese!!

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Long-term Sustainability

Eating healthy is more sustainable in the long run than eating clean. It’s unrealistic to place restrictions on yourself for your entire life, so I’ll eat treats in moderation and make sure to eat my fruits and vegetables like always.

It is also a lot cheaper to eat canned and frozen vegetables than buying fresh, organic ones. Although I would love to eat organically, it’s unrealistic for me in the long run because of the high costs and difficulty finding organic food.

When eating healthy, it is much easier to eat out or indulge during social gatherings. It was always very hard for me to find something to eat at restaurants, and it was even more difficult for me to find something to eat at parties, cookouts, or other get-togethers. It was inconvenient and somewhat embarrassing to always bring my own food to social events, but with eating healthy, I can treat myself without feeling guilty.

Restrictions

When eating healthy, there are fewer restrictions than when eating clean. Healthy eating (to me) means eating the recommended servings of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and fats each day, while eating sugar and processed foods in moderation. Instead of eliminating certain things from my diet, such as cheese, beef, condiments, salad dressing, coffee creamer, desserts, and potatoes, I will simply eat them in moderation.

Calcium

I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling that while I was eating clean, I wasn’t getting near enough calcium in my diet. I rarely drank milk, almost never ate cheese, rarely ate yogurt, and stayed away from most fortified breakfast cereals. Now that I’ve reintroduced cereal, milk, and cheese, I’m doing my bones a favor.

Cost

Organic, all-natural, chemical-free foods are expensive. Shopping at specialty health food stores can also take a toll on your wallet. I tried to buy organic, all-natural foods, but I just couldn’t afford to do it for long. Now, I buy lots of frozen and canned vegetables, and it really saves money while keeping me healthy!

Since I’ve started eating healthy and reintroducing foods back into my diet, I’ve actually felt better! My mind feels healthier and my body feels more energized. I’m not sure if I’m eating more calories or anything, but I feel like this is healthier for me than following such a strict diet with such rigid guidelines.

Some foods I’ve reintroduced to my diet are:

  • Store-bought whole wheat bread
  • White potatoes
  • Skim milk
  • Cheese
  • Beef
  • Store-bought healthy breakfast cereals
  • Salad dressing
  • Croutons (in moderation)
  • Desserts (in moderation)
  • Salami
  • Pepperoni

Hopefully, none of you readers are upset with me for abandoning the clean eating train! I’m not saying clean eating is any less healthy than a normal healthy diet, but it’s just what works best for me. I think we all need to find what works best in our lives and focus on being as healthy as can be!

What is your opinion of eating clean? How do you feel about my switch to regular healthy eating?

 

Wake Up and Smell the Workout: Exercise Schedule

workout

If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time figuring out your workout schedule for the week/month. There is so much conflicting information out there. I’ve read that you should workout at night, that you should workout in the morning, that you should do an hour of cardio each day, that you should do 30 minutes of cardio per day, that you shouldn’t workout if you’re sore, that you should do yoga if you’re sore, that you should lift weight before cardio, that you should lift weight after cardio, you get the point… enough with all this information!

I’m not an expert or anything, but after years of working out with different types of exercises and different lengths of sessions, I think I’ve finally figured out a good workout schedule for myself. I’m not going to say it’s best for everyone, but it is what works for me. I like to do different types of cardio, weight/strength training, and pilates.

I always like seeing how others set up their workout routines and schedules, so I thought it might be helpful for all of you to read about mine!

I workout 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. I let myself have weekends off, so I can rest and have some fun!

I workout whatever time of day I can. If I have time in the morning, I get up early. If I have time at night, I do it then. I don’t think the time of day you exercise matters; it’s whatever works best for you.

I typically exercise for 1 to 1 and a half hours per day, depending on how I’m feeling or how much time I have.

I usually do 30-40 minutes of cardio each day, alternating between HIITs (high intensity interval training) and running on the elliptical machine.

My routine is separated into 2 lower body days (1 day of weights and 1 day of pilates), 2 core training days (pilates for abs, 1 day of weights for back, and one day of pilates for back), and 1 upper body day (half with weights and half pilates). I only do one upper body day because I started getting really bulky shoulders/arms, so I decided to cut back.

I use FitnessBlender.com videos for all my weight training and HIITs and Blogilates.com for all my pilates workout videos. I also use the elliptical machine in the gym here on my college campus. I have free weights in my room: a set of 2 pounds, a set of 5 pounds, a set of 10 pounds, a set of 15 pounds, ankle weights that go up to 5 pounds, exercise bands, and a 1/2″ thick exercise mat.

So here’s my weekly routine!

Monday 

  • Cardio: HIITs  30-40 minutes
  • Weights: Legs & Glutes 30-40 minutes

Tuesday

  • Cardio: Elliptical 30-45 minutes
  • Weights: Back 10 minutes
  • Pilates: Abs 20-25 minutes

Wednesday

  • Cardio: HIITs 30-40 minutes
  • Weights: Upper Body 15 minutes
  • Pilates: Upper Body 15 minutes

Thursday

  • Cardio: Elliptical 30-45 minutes
  • Pilates: Lower Body 30-40 minutes

Friday

  • Cardio: HIITs 30-40 minutes
  • Pilates: Abs 20-25 minutes
  • Pilates: Back 10 minutes

Again, this is just what works best for me. Everyone is different, so I encourage you to experiment with different routines until you find one that works for you! I hope this helps you get some ideas of what you can do to spruce up your workout schedule!

Silk PureAlmond Review

Silk PureAlmond

After a recent trip to the store for groceries, I decided I would buy some almond milk to try. I’d read about how good it is and how many recipes you can use it in, so I thought why not? I bought the Silk PureAlmond Original Unsweetened Almond Milk and gave it a try.

You can find almond milk at the store by the rest of the milk (cow, soy, coconut) in the refrigerated section. There are lots of varieties: vanilla, chocolate, original, and original unsweetened. Original unsweetened is the only one without added sugar, so be sure to choose wisely.

What is almond milk? It’s made from ground almonds and water. The almonds are soaked in water, finely ground and blended, and strained to remove the almond pulp and skins.

Quick  Facts:

  • Costs $3.32 (for a half gallon at Wal-Mart)
  • Ingredients: filtered water, almonds, sea salt, bean gum, sunflower lecithin, gellan gum, natural flavor
  • Lactose free
  • Gluten free
  • Soy free
  • Non GMO (no genetically modified ingredients)
  • Must be refrigerated
  • Stays fresh for 7 to 10 days after opening

Nutritional Information (for 8 oz. serving):

  • Calories 30
  • Total Fat 2.5g (.5g polyunsaturated and 1.5g monounsaturated)
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sugars 0g
  • Protein 1g

Daily Value of Vitamins (for 8 oz. serving):

  • 45% Calcium
  • 25% Vitamin D
  • 50% Vitamin E
  • 10% Vitamin A
  • 30% Riboflavin
  • 50% Vitamin B
  • 8% Zinc
  • 4% Magnesium
  • 2% Iron

So, now for my thoughts on this almond milk. Please keep in mind, no one is paying me to say any of this. When I first opened it, I was cautious. I don’t really care for cow milk, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about almond milk. I won’t drink regular milk by itself because I don’t like the taste, smell, or texture. I only buy skim milk (so it’s thin), and I only really use it for cooking or occasionally on cereal.

Anyway, I shook up the almond milk and poured myself a glass. I was skeptical. I was surprised at how thick it was! It was an off-white color, and was about the same consistency of 2% or whole milk. I went in for a sip, and I was pleasantly surprised! This is just my opinion, but it’s amazing!

It has a mild almond-like taste. It’s nothing like cow milk. I can drink it plain (and I actually like to!). It’s great on cereal as well, but drinking it plain is my favorite.

Pros:

  • Delicious taste
  • Thick consistency
  • High in vitamins
  • 0g of sugar
  • Only 30 calories per serving
  • Non GMO

Cons:

  • Costs $3.32 for a half gallon
  • Has 7 ingredients (although they’re all natural, that’s still a lot for clean eating)
  • Only stays good for 7-10 days after opening

My overall opinion? I would recommend Silk PureAlmond to everyone. I will surely be buying it again, and I don’t think I will ever use cow milk again. It’s definitely worth giving a try, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it like I did.

Peanut Butter Exposed

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is good for you, right? Not necessarily. Peanut butter is full of healthy fats and protein, but most kinds have added sugars, oils, and salt.

I love peanut butter. LOVE it. I’d live off the stuff if I wouldn’t die from malnutrition. I eat peanut butter like it’s going out of style, and I’d marry it if I could.

But, a few months ago, I realized that almost all the peanut butters at the store, even all natural and organic brands, have more ingredients than just peanuts. Desperate to get to the bottom of peanut butter’s dirty little secret, I did some digging to find out which kinds are healthiest and which ones won’t break the bank.

I went to Meijer today, and took notes over all 11 different brands of peanut butters labeled “all natural” or “organic.” I probably looked like a crazy person standing in the aisle for a good 15 minutes with a little notebook writing down all the brands, prices, and ingredients, but it was worth it to find out which peanut butter is best for eating clean.

I graded each peanut butter on two criteria for a healthiness score: number of ingredients and NuVal score. (The NuVal System measures the nutritional quality of foods and scores them from 0 to 100). The fewer ingredients, the higher the grade. The higher the NuVal score, the higher the grade. I weighted the grade for ingredients twice as much as the NuVal Score since clean eating is all about eating whole foods.

For example, Skippy Natural Peanut Butter has four ingredients, earning it a 70%. It has a NuVal score of 16/100, or 16%. To calculate Skippy’s final grade, I added 2(0.7) + 0.16 = 1.56, and then divided 1.56/3 = 0.52 or 52%.

Below is a list (from highest to lowest healthiness score) of the 11 kinds of natural or organic peanut butter I found at Meijer. Just a reminder that these prices are based on Meijer’s regular pricing and might be different depending on stores or sales.

And finally, the results you’ve been waiting for!

83% Krema Natural Peanut Butter

  • 1 Ingredient (peanuts)
  • NuVal Score: 49
  • Price: $3.49

75% Meijer Natural Peanut Butter

  • 1 Ingredient (roasted peanuts)
  • NuVal Score: 24
  • Price: $2.99

67% Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter

  • 2 Ingredients (peanuts, salt)
  • NuVal Score: 22
  • Price: $3.29

54% Planter’s Natural Peanut Butter

  • 4 Ingredients (roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt)
  • NuVal Score: 23
  • Price: $2.69

54% MaraNatha Organic Peanut Butter

  • 4 Ingredients (dry roasted organic peanuts, organic palm oil, organic unrefined cane sugar, sea salt)
  • NuVal Score: 23
  • Price: $5.99

53% Peter Pan 100% Natural Peanut Butter

  • 4 Ingredients (roasted peanuts, sugar, fractionated palm oil, salt)
  • NuVal Score: 18
  • Price: $2.79

53% Meijer Organic Peanut Butter

  • 4 Ingredients (dry roasted organic peanuts, organic palm oil, organic pure cane sugar, sea salt)
  • NuVal Score: 18
  • Price: $3.99

52% Skippy Natural Peanut Butter

  • 4 Ingredients (roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt)
  • NuVal Score: 16
  • Price: $3.19

48% Smart Balance All Natural Rich Roast Peanut Butter

  • 5 Ingredients (peanuts, dried cane syrup, natural oil blend, salt, molasses)
  • NuVal Score: 25
  • Price: $3.49

47% Jif Natural Peanut Butter

  • 5 Ingredients (peanuts, sugar, palm oil, salt, molasses)
  • NuVal Score: 20
  • Price: $2.99

41% Simply Jif Peanut Butter

  • 6 Ingredients (peanuts, fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, mono & diglycerides, molasses, sugar, salt)
  • NuVal Score: 23
  • Price: $2.99

To sum up, if you’re looking for the healthiest peanut butter for clean eating, Krema takes the cake! Scoring 83%, this peanut butter knocks the others out of the water. Simply Jif is the least healthy on this list.

If you’re looking for the lowest price on natural peanut butter, Planter’s is for you! It only beats the others by a few quarters, but it can add up. Avoid MaraNatha if you’re on a budget; $5.99 a jar is a bit pricey.

Now that you’ve got the real facts, you can make a wise choice about your peanut butter. The lesson of the story is, always read the ingredients label. I can’t stress that enough. And now that I’ve got you craving peanut butter, go have a spoonful or two!