Best hike in the North Cascades National Park

Hidden Lake Lookout

Mount Shuksan Fall Colors Hike - Chain Lakes Loop

Chain Lakes Loop

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Arches National Park

Camp Muir

Mount Storm King

Holiday Gift Guide for Health & Fitness Lovers

My Favorite Health & Fitness Products

Holiday Gift Guide for Health & Fitness LoversLooking for new ideas to elevate your wellness or shopping for a gift for a health enthusiast? I thought it would be fun to share my favorite health and fitness products on the market today!

Exercise:

The Sling Band: I’ve used several exercise bands throughout the years, but this one is the king of them all. It’s great to pack in your suitcase for travel too. Since it’s thick material, it doesn’t snap like the rubber bands and it adds way more intensity! My favorite exercises: squats, glute bridges, knee-banded hip thrusts, lateral band walks & band hip abduction.

Squat Sponge: The pads at the gym just don’t cut it for hip thrusts. This pad is thick and allows perfect cushion when performing hip thrusts or weighted glute bridges for your body.

Jaybird Wireless Headphones: I own Jaybird headphones, but any wireless headphones is an upgrade from your standard pair, especially if you are doing a strength training workout. I definitely don’t miss my arm band to hold my iPod. They also work great for interval training, running, rowing and more!

Lululemon Align Pants: I’m obsessed with these pants and I own them in 5+ colors. The fabric is great and they are the most comfortable pants I’ve found. They don’t get the best reviews online due to some piling issues, but I haven’t found it to be a problem.

Lululemon Yoga Mat: I’ve owned a few yoga mats in the past, but this one from Lululemon is my favorite. I’ve had mine for years and it still looks brand new.

Fitbit: I received an upgraded band about six months ago and I find it to be much more stylish than the other products. My Fitbit gets me up out of my chair every hour at work, creates that mental awareness of how much I’m moving and gives me a daily goal to hit my steps. I’ve found I still want to get them in, even if it’s late at night.

A Go-to Water Bottle: While I used to love my Starbucks water bottle with a straw, I’ve found I prefer one that doesn’t have a straw. It makes it much easier to travel with and doesn’t accidentally spill. I created a habit to fill my water bottle right when I get up and focus on drinking 4 bottles a day. This link has reviews on the best from 2017.

Fitness Journal – I’ve talked here or here why you should track your strength workouts. While I don’t own this journal, it would fit all my needs!

Look for discounts: Look for discounts at your favorite workout studio. For the holidays, my yoga studio discounted their 10 class punch card by $40. I treated myself early by stocking up on classes.

My Favorite Food/Products:

Balsamic Vinegar: I’ve said this before, but I will never buy cheap balsamic vinegar again. The taste with this one from Williams-Sonoma is by far worth the price, plus it lasts for months since I mainly use it on salads. This can fit in a stocking stuffer or act as a great gift!

John Boos Cutting Board: So, this isn’t food, but it certainly has helped me with all my food prep in the kitchen! This sits on my counter 24/7 and has been so convenient for chopping vegetables.

Fourth & Heart Ghee: I started using this brand a few months ago and love it. I use it to saute zucchini noodles, onion/garlic and cook plantains. Other people use it with everything they cook! It’s a great alternative to those individuals who don’t tolerate dairy products well or are looking for a dairy-free option.

Rx bar: I only eat these in emergency situations or if I’m out hiking. I find they can trigger sugar cravings if I eat them too often, so when I do, it’s a nice treat. It could be a great stocking stuffer too. Since they are made with whole foods, they can be a sticky in texture. I still enjoy them and have found them at most grocery stores.

Fran’s Salted Caramels: The best caramels I have ever eaten and they are right here in Seattle! I always give these as holiday gifts to my family members who love them. They are not cheap, but eating just one is satisfying.

Health/Travel:

Favorite Books: I’ve written a blog about my top books here. I’ll add a few others below.

Tiny, beautiful things by Cheryl Strayed – This advice column book is easy to pick up and read a few pages at a time, but most of all, it’s so inspiring to read her feedback on every unique story. It’s helped me find the positive in any negative situation.

Annual National Park Pass – This is a great gift for your outdoor lover, especially if some National Parks plan to increase their entry fees in 2018.

Strong Curves – For a new way of training, I bought this book at the end of last year and completed the 3 month program. It’s great. I’ve continued this style of training for the entire year. Be sure to ask for a squat sponge too 🙂

Passport Holder– I love this for traveling. It acts as my wallet when I’m on the road with the credit card sleeves.

Need other health ideas? try gift cards to Whole Foods, other health food stores, favorite restaurant or the spa! Many restaurants give bonuses this time of year with a gift card purchase.

How I Know It’s Time for a Diet Reset & Ideas for What to Eat

I did a Whole30 in January of this year. I recap my experience here. Since then, I have felt pretty good! In Melissa Hartwig’s new book, Food Freedom Forever, she states that everyone will eventually fall off track. It happens to everyone whether you are dealing with stress, the holiday season, post vacation blues, etc. I didn’t really notice myself “falling off track” until recently returning home from my 16 days in Europe. I practiced what I preach while I was on vacation by splitting meals, getting in my veggies, packing workout gear and more. Read my tools and tricks here.

When I returned home, I got back to cooking my go-to food in the kitchen and doubling my water, but I still struggling with sugar cravings. I found myself needing a sweet treat daily. This didn’t surprise me because I was enjoying a sweet treat daily in Europe. Cravings will sky rocket when you are doing this (and I knew this) so I accepted the consequences and enjoyed every bite of what I was eating on my trip.

After finding myself caving into cravings for one week post Europe, I knew it was time for a hard reset to feel back to normal again.

Nothing does the trick better than completing a Whole30. While I intended to start on Tuesday, September 5th, I ended up starting on Wednesday, September 6th. A week has passed and I’m already starting to feel like my normal self! I’d thought I’d share what’s working for me and what I’m cookin’!

My Whole30 Keys to Success

1.) Always cook enough for leftovers. 

As you will see in my example meals from my first full week of my September Whole30, I always make enough for at least one leftover meal. I cook for two so each meal makes at least four servings. Leftovers don’t always have to be for lunch or dinner. I’ve used them for breakfast too! If you cook for one, think of meals that freeze really well so when the times come when you don’t want to cook, you have a single serving meal ready to thaw from the freezer. Leftovers also help decrease the amount of time you have to cook throughout the week.

2.) Find new fun projects or things to do. 

While my weekends are filled with different activities or commitments, I always enjoy going out to a favorite restaurant on Saturday. It’s something I look forward to. Therefore, I knew for my Whole30 this month I would need new things to look forward to. To replace going out for a meal or drinks, I’ve planned a hiking trip & I started working on putting together my vacation photo albums. So far it’s been a great replacement.

3.) Seek out new recipes.

The Whole30recipes page on Instagram is my favorite resource for new recipes. Each week they bring on a new food blogger to share their favorite ideas & tricks for doing a Whole30. Like I have mentioned before, sometimes your go-to recipes get old so it’s key to introduce new recipes when you are getting bored.

4.) Don’t forget it’s okay to stick with the basics. 

If I tried to cook a new, fancy meal every night, I would burn out quickly. So, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to eat a can of tuna fish or just grill up a chicken breast for a meal. Have some go-to staples ready in your pantry or refrigerator for those nights when you really don’t want to cook. You’ll see some meals that easily fall into the “basic meal” category below.

Example Meals & Recipe Links

I usually eat 4 meals a day. One meal is usually a snack that consists of whatever I have available. A lot of the time I use deli turkey, veggies, fruit, nuts or nut butter. Here is a week worth of meal ideas!

Wednesday, September 6th 

  1. Breakfast: Chicken Skillet (spinach, ground chicken, bell pepper, onions) + a side of raspberries
  2. Lunch: Roasted Chicken thighs with Brussels Sprouts & Roasted Sweet Potato
  3. Dinner: Turkey chili with a side salad

Thursday, September 7th 

  1. Breakfast: 1 Chicken thigh + 1 fried egg + 2 cups spinach and a side of raspberries
  2. Lunch: Leftover Turkey Chili with a side salad
  3. Dinner: Salmon Cakes (From the Whole30 cookbook) with a side salad

Friday, September 8th 

  1. Breakfast: 1.5 Salmon cakes + 2 cups romaine + a side of berries
  2. Leftover Chili with 1/2 salmon cake on the side + 2 deli turkey slices (eating up what’s left in the fridge!)
  3. Picadillo with a side salad. For this recipe, click here! I don’t make them as tacos, but just as a meat sauce.

Saturday, September 9th 

  1. Breakfast: 2 fried eggs, 2 slices of bacon, 2 cups spinach + a side of roasted red potatoes (spinach not pictured – I eat it out of the box sometimes!)
  2. Lunch: Leftover Picadillo + a side salad
  3. Dinner: Whole Foods Hot Bar. This is great for a Whole30 because they list all of the ingredients used for each hot bar entree. I picked the pork carnitas, butternut squash, two strawberries and a salad

Sunday, September 10th 

  1. Breakfast: 1 fried egg, ground chicken, leftover bacon & roasted red potatoes + a side of spinach
  2. Lunch: 2 sausages, asparagus, berry salad
  3. Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, roasted sweet potato & steamed broccoli

Monday, September 11th 

  1. Breakfast: ground chicken, spinach salad, side of raspberries + 1 TB almond butter
  2. Lunch: collard green wrap with tuna fish & homemade mayo + a side of roasted sweet potato (not shown)
  3. Dinner: Chicken & Vegetable soup

Tuesday, September 12th 

  1. Breakfast: leftover ground chicken + 1 fried egg, spinach salad, side of raspberries + 1 TB almond butter
  2. Lunch: collard green deli turkey wrap with homemade mayo + roasted butternut squash + 1/2 apple
  3. Dinner: Chicken & Sweet potato curry. For the recipe, click here! This was my one new recipe for the week, but my husband and I loved it! It will make the monthly go-to rotation in our kitchen. I followed the slow cooker instructions.