A Beginner’s Guide to Nutrition

Hey there, lovelies!
This week’s post is a crash course in the basics of nutrition and healthy eating. You guys hear me talk all the time about what you should and shouldn’t eat, but now I want to do an educational post about why you should avoid certain foods and consume others. With this groundwork in place you’ll be able to make even better decisions on your own and know more about what you’re putting in your body.
First, let’s talk food groups. You’ve all probably heard about the five food groups since you were a kid, so let’s use that as our starting point.
The Five Food Groups:
-Fruits
-Vegetables
-Dairy
-Grains
-Meats

The main point I want to make in sharing these five food groups is that you want to have balance and variety in your diet. Maybe you’ve heard people say that they try to “fill their plate with all the colors of the rainbow.” I recommend filling your plate with lots of fruits, veggies, and protein first. Then add small amounts of dairy and grains since the body has a harder time digesting them and they tend to be more fattening. Go for lean meats, low fat dairy, and whole grains. I’m intolerant to gluten so I don’t eat wheat and avoid most grains because things like brown rice don’t do well with me either. I have also found that dairy makes me break out, so I avoid dairy whenever I can. If you’re like me and don’t really eat dairy or grains, try to consume more healthy fats like avocados and almonds, and healthy carbs like sweet potatoes and bananas. Below I’ll tell you a little bit about each group along with some tips about proper consumption:
– Fruits: Fruits contain so many vitamins, minerals and fiber and absolutely should be a staple in your diet. The thing to be aware of with fruits is that they do contain lots of natural sugars, so make sure you’re consuming them in moderation. Obviously, natural and healthy sugars are good for you in moderation so no need to be paranoid when you hear the scary word “sugar”! I like to use fruits in smoothies or have an apple or orange for a snack in the morning (try to consume fruits in the morning so that the sugars in them don’t keep you from sleeping well at night… it might not make a difference for you but it sure does for me!).
– Vegetables: Again, you’ll get lots of your vitamins, minerals and fiber from your veggies. Go for variety: ex. you can use zucchini and mushrooms with eggs in the morning, lots of leafy greens and sprouts in a chicken salad with lunch, and broccoli and carrots with your dinner. As much as possible, try to eat veggies raw so they retain all of their nutrients. I recommend baking them or sauteeing them in olive oil or coconut oil when you can’t eat them raw.
– Dairy: This is an area to watch out for fat! Of course, not all fats are bad for you (a topic I’ll go into more detail about below). But in general, especially if you’re trying to lose weight or get lean and toned, it’s a good idea to go for the low-fat options when it comes to milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. If you’re lactose intolerant or you avoid dairy for other reasons like me, you can use almond milk alternatives – they’re super lean and a great source of healthy fats.
– Grains: Grains are a rather controversial topic for a lot of people today, many believe that humans are not made to digest grains and therefore should avoid them. And honestly, they’ve got a point! I’m not saying everyone should go gluten-free or paleo, absolutely not… girl, you know I can’t live without a little bread. 😉 But I do recommend paying attention to the kinds of grains that work best in your body. I bet that the bloating or indigestion you may experience can be tied back at least partially to the grains you’re consuming. For me, I cannot handle gluten at all and rice tends to not sit well either. So instead I go for quinoa if I really need a grain, or breads made with almond flour. Honestly, consuming fewer grains means I fill that gap with way more veggies. Listen to your body and find what works best for you. If you do stick to wheat and other grains, make sure to use whole grains and avoid the processed crap that makes up most of the baked goods in the grocery store.
– Meat/Protein: When it comes to meats I’m a bit more laid back in the things I recommend my clients eat. The main thing here is to focus on lean meats, things like chicken, turkey and salmon. Proteins or “amino acids” are your building blocks for muscle growth, so it’s so important to be consuming plenty of healthy protein so that your muscles can be properly fed and strong (especially if you’re working out regularly, which you are, right? 😉 ).
Next, let’s go into a little bit more detail about the actual nutrients in your food. This is something I could go on and on about because it’s such interesting stuff, but for the purpose of this post I’ll keep it pretty simple.

Macronutrients: These are your “big nutrients”, the ones that make up the bulk of what you eat. When you hear body builders and athletes talk about “counting macros”, these are what they’re talking about. Below are the three macronutrients and things to know about each:
1. Carbohydrates: Carbs get a lot of negativity since people tend to think they’re mainly to blame for making people fat. The reality is that there are lots of yummy, unhealthy carbs out there that are being consumed in huge and unhealthy amounts – therefore contributing to (not causing on its own) what is already an unhealthy lifestyle and weight gain or unsuccessful weightloss. There are lots of healthy carbs in fruits, veggies and grains that are perfectly healthy in moderation. I want to clear up some of the negativity and let you know that you don’t need to be terrified of carbs, you just need to know which kinds to eat.

Here’s the basics: there are simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. The body burns up the energy from simple carbs fast, and burns complex carbs more slowly (simple= quick energy; complex= long-lasting energy). You want to consume more complex carbs because they’ll be better used by the body for lasting energy. That’s not to say that simple carbs are bad at all, they can be a great addition to your short-term energy when eaten in moderation. Energy is good, you guys! Properly consuming the right types of carbohydrates can help you maintain balanced blood sugar levels and keep you energized all day.

Here’s some examples of healthy simple carbs: lots of fruits, especially bananas, mangoes and grapes; natural fruit juice and lactose containing products like milk are also good sources of these short-term energy carbs. Things like processed baked goods, chips and snacks that include white flour and refined sugars are the simple carbs you do not want to consume. Keep it clean and plant-based as much as possible!

Finally, here are some healthy complex carbohydrate examples: leafy greens, whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and peas. Again, avoid processed foods, white flour, and refined sugars.

2. Protein: I’ve already covered the main points about protein above, but I’ll add that protein is another way to give your body long-lasting energy and fuel. Make sure to use an organic, plant-based protein powder after your workouts to feed your muscles and help them repair and grow.

3. Fats: This is another macronutrient that gets a lot of negative talk, and like carbohydrates, it’s really a matter of knowing what type to consume. Here’s the basics: the “bad fats” are saturated and trans fats, these are usually solid at room temperature (ex. Butter). Once again, avoid processed and high-calorie products like butter and goods that contain refined sugars and white flour. Pastries, chips or crackers, processed meats, canola and hydrogenated oils are examples of foods that contain the unhealthy or bad fats. The “good fats” are unsaturated fats, both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Examples of these would be avocados, almonds, eggs, salmon, flaxseed, olive oil, coconut oil, and leafy greens.

Micronutrients: These are the smaller components in your diet that play a huge part in keeping you healthy. Basically, vitamins, minerals and a few other small compounds make up the majority of your micronutrients. The goal should be to get as many of these from your food as possible and take organic supplements for the rest. You can google which foods contain which vitamins and minerals, there are plenty of tables online you can print and hang on your fridge for reference to make sure you’re getting all of the necessary micronutrients.

Okay, now that we’ve gone through the basics of food groups, macro and micronutrients, let’s talk a little about the big things to avoid. You know now that there are good and bad types of carbs, fats and proteins. Now you can fill your plate with the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff, eating all things in moderation. I want to take a minute to talk about sugar and alcohol, the two big things you should also try to avoid and consume only in small amounts. I’m not saying you have to give them up completely, having a little sugar or a glass of wine now and then won’t kill you. 😉 However, added sugar in treats and processed foods you eat put a strain on your immune system, your liver and your body in general. Alcohol does the same thing, and really alcohol can be seen as a type of poison in your body. There are no nutritional benefits to be gained from eating lots of sugar and drinking alcohol. Both of these put stress on your body and count as “empty calories” which are never a good idea. When it comes to sugar and sweeteners, grab sweet, yummy fruits and berries for snacks and natural sweeteners like stevia. Avoid added sugar, corn syrup, and especially unnatural/chemical sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame.

Fill your body with things that will nourish and help it to properly function and perform at its best. Always read the nutrition label and practice recognizing the things that should and shouldn’t be in your diet. Food is an amazingly powerful thing and can be used as both a preventative and healing medicine for your body.

There’s so much more to the topic of nutrition, it can be very complicated and cool! But for now here’s the basics, I hope you’ve learned a lot and will start applying these lessons to your healthy lifestyle.

Xoxo, Mary.

Detox Your Home – No More Chemicals

Hey there, lovelies!

Today I want to talk about the importance of ridding your home and environment of chemicals, along with ways to go about this is in a budget-friendly way. The average home today contains anywhere from 500-1,000 chemicals. I’m sure many of you have heard or read scary stories about the way chemicals in our plastic, our cleaning agents, even our deodorant and makeup have been linked to an alarming number of health problems. These health problems range from issues of the immune system, endocrine system, reproductive system and many more. Cancer and other serious/life-threatening conditions have been linked to the use of plastic containing BPA, and to many of the chemicals found in things we use around the house. So many things in our 21st century environment are not as safe as they may seem… why take the risk? There are so many natural options on the market today that can be trusted and used without putting a dent in your budget. Let me take you through what I did in my home to get rid of unnatural products and replace them with things I can trust. Look for products that have basic ingredients you can pronounce, usually they’ll be labeled with things like “Plant-Based”, “Chemical Free”, or “Organic”.
• Food Containers: While many plastics today say on the box that they are “BPA free” this cannot always be trusted. Many plastics with this claim still contain small amounts of the chemical and should be avoided. A great alternative is a set of glass food containers. I purchased mine off of Amazon for under $30 and said goodbye to my plastic Tupperware (they were getting a bit worn out anyway). I also went through and replaced plastic cutting boards, mixing bowls, measuring cups, utensils… just about any plastic I could find was replaced with glass, metal or wood alternatives.
• Cleaning Products: When you think of chemicals in your home, things like your cleaners probably come to mind as the obvious culprits. Harsh chemicals are being used to clean so many areas in our homes, chemicals which we then touch and inhale all day long. There are lots of natural cleaning agents out there that do just as good of a job and are safe for our bodies to be around constantly. The Honest Company makes so many great products that are totally affordable, so does Method. Mrs. Meyer’s products are my personal favorite, I love the lemon verbena scent (their ingredients are derived from plants and essential oils). You can also use good old vingar diluted in water for cleaning many different surfaces. I replaced all of our cleaners, towels and sponges with natural ones for under $30!
• Makeup: Ladies, listen up. So much of the pretty makeup we wear contains nasty chemicals that are then absorbed into our bodies through our skin! Yuck! As a lady we have our hormones to keep in check, and you know what can make a huge difference in the health of your endocrine system and hormones? Having a clean, natural, healthy and chemical-free environment. Brands like Almay and Physician’s Formula carry organic and chemical free lines, and they can be bought at your grocery store or Target for no more than you were already paying for other brands like Covergirl or L’Oreal. I actually like the natural stuff better than what I used to use!
• Hygiene: Now think about personal hygiene… shampoo, conditioner, facewash, bodywash, deodorant, perfume, tampons… all of these contain ingredients that can be harmful to your body, and just like makeup they can be easily absorbed by your skin. Luckily, most stores today have clearly labeled sections for natural products. I was amazed at how easily I found natural and organic options for little more than what I paid before. Or you can just do a little digging online if you can’t find what you need in the store.
• Fresh Air: Open your windows as much as possible (not an easy task this time of year) to keep air flowing and clean. You can also use plants in your home to clean the air. Get your diffuser going with essential oils to refresh, and try to use a broom as much as possible instead of a vacuum to avoid stirring up dust in the air.
• Water Filter: This is one I still need to implement myself. Filtering the tap water you drink is a good idea for obvious reasons, but can be easily forgotten. Make it happen so that you can know the water you’re using is fresh and clean.
• Packaging: You know those plastic bags they have at the grocery store for your fruits and veggies? Try to bring your own paper ones, or take your fruits and veggies out of their plastic bags and wash them as soon as you get home. Also be mindful of the plastic packaging on other foods you may be buying. Paper bags (basic, natural ones) are a cheap alternative, and you can always store things in your new glass containers.

There you have it, now you have a basic guideline for detoxifying your home of chemicals that can and do cause your body harm. Taking care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle goes beyond eating right and working out. Put in the effort and your body with thank you!

xoxo, Mary.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Digestive System

Hey there, lovelies! 

Today’s post is going to be focused on meals and digestion, a fitting topic given my upcoming meal plan release! My four-week detailed meal plan is coming soon, so keep an eye out. 😘

Many people don’t realize just how important having a healthy digestive system is for your entire body. It may seem like no big deal to be irregular in the bowel department or to eat meals at random times of the day. But having a good meal schedule and a healthy digestive system works wonders throughout your entire body. There are so many toxins that need to be able to be eliminated efficiently in order for the rest of our body systems to function smoothly. For us ladies, having an efficient system of elimination is a big part of maintaining healthy and balanced hormones (the build-up of excess estrogen in the body can lead to all kinds of hormonal issues). So don’t underestimate the power of your tummy! That being said, here are a few tips to help you establish a healthy digestive system and a healthier you overall as a result.

Hydration: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times, being well  hydrated is so important for your whole body, and digestion is no exception. Have a tall glass of water with lemon every morning when you get up, this will wake up your digestive system and get it running for the day. Then be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your day to keep things running smoothly throughout all of your body’s systems. I drink 8 ounces right when I wake up, 40 ounces before noon, and 40 ounces after noon. The difference it makes is incredible! 

Regular Meal Schedule: A sporadic and inconsistent diet leads to a multitude of problems, including messed up blood sugar levels and digestive irregularities. Stick to a schedule with your meals and keep your body well fueled throughout the day. For me that means eating breakfast at 7 a.m., a snack at 10 a.m., lunch at noon, a snack at 3 p.m., and dinner at 6 p.m. You’ll feel better and more energized throughout your day from more balanced blood sugar levels, and your body will be able to better handle the things it needs to digest and eliminate.

Fiber: This one probably comes to mind for most people when they think about having regularity in the bowel department. Start your day with a good amount of fiber in your breakfast to start the day on the right foot. Outside of the obvious fruits and veggies, chia seeds are a great source of fiber and omega 3’s, plus they’re easy to incorporate into just about anything. I like putting a spoonful of chia seeds in my oatmeal, on top of my eggs and veggies, or in a breakfast smoothie. 

Probiotics: Maintaining healthy gut bacteria is so important and often neglected. When people think of bacteria they tend to think of bad bacteria, but there’s an amazing group of healthy, good bacteria that reside within the digestive system to help neutralize toxins, assist in the absorption of nutrients, and discourage bad bacteria and yeasts. These good bacteria are not only huge helpers in the digestive process, but are crucial for keeping your immune system strong. Taking a probiotic every day and drinking kombucha are great additions to your routine that will help keep this aspect of digestion running smoothly.

Eat Simply: The more complex the meal the harder it’s likely to be to digest, especially if it contains lots of unhealthy fats. Stick to clean, simple meals filled to the brim with nutrient-rich veggies and lean proteins.

Be Nice to Your Liver: Your liver probably gets forgotten about when you think of stomach issues, but it plays a huge role in digestion and needs to be taken care of! Your liver plays the role of processing the nutrients absorbed by your small intestine, and it provides bile which is a key helper in digesting fat. So try to be good to your liver by eating foods like carrots and leafy greens, and by limiting the amount of alcohol you consume. Cutting down your alcohol intake is beneficial for so many reasons, but this is a good one to start with.
That concludes my tips for healthy and regular digestion, I hope you found them helpful and will begin incorporating them into your routine. Your body will thank you! 
Xoxo, Mary.

How I Bounce Back Fast from Sickness

Hey there, lovelies!

See those stormy clouds and angry looking waves in the photo above? That’s what my body has been like this past week. It’s that time of year when I feel like everyone has some type of a bug messing up their system. And if you’re anything like me, you hate getting sick not only because it just plain sucks, but because it messes up your routine and training. But, it is so important to listen to your body and work with it to keep it healthy and strong. Put aside the frustration of how inconvenient it is to be sick right now and focus on the ways you can help your body recover. Being stressed and upset about the fact that you’re sick will only make things worse! So, here are the things I do when I’m sick to help my body fight hard and recover fast.

  • Diffusing Essential Oils: This is something I do all the time anyway, but especially when I’m under the weather. I’m currently getting over a cold and having a cozy, yummy smelling environment at home is such a comfort. I got my diffuser and oils off of Amazon for less than 20 bucks, and I probably use them at least every other day. Diffusing eucalyptus, orange and lemon grass are my favorite for a cold since they help open up your sinuses and relieve congestion. Lavender oil is great for sleep, and you know how important it is to get good rest, especially when you’re unwell.
  • Orange and Lemon Water: This one might seem kind of funny, but I like to squeeze/juice a whole orange and half a lemon into some nice hot water and drink it throughout the day. The citrus is refreshing and a nice change from plain water, not to mention the vitamin C content.
  • Soups: This one is a bit of a no brainer, but having lots of nutrient rich soups is a must. Of course the problem can be that you feel yucky and don’t want to put in the effort or time to make something healthy. So what I do is invest some of my time and energy when I’m not sick into preparing healthy soups for when I am sick. Making a big batch of homemade chicken broth to stick in the freezer is a bi-weekly ritual at our house, and boy does it pay off when you’re not feeling well! This week I got home feeling very poorly and all I had to do was throw my frozen homemade chicken broth, shredded chicken, and veggies into a pot and ta-da! Homemade, nutrient-rich comfort in a bowl.
  • Hot Baths and Showers: Nothing beats relaxing in a nice hot bath or shower, especially when you’re sick. The steam breaks up a lot of the mucousy grossness and helps you relax. You can also use a eucalyptus body scrub (the one I use is from Bath and Body Works) and get your diffuser going in the background.
  • Light Exercise: This one obviously depends a lot on how sick you are and what illness you have. If you have the flu and are all pukey you probably won’t be eager to get moving very much. So listening to your body is key here. That being said, when I’m in the thick of it I like to take some time to do some really light stretching and foam rolling. The low-intensity movement and increase in blood flow is great for your body even when it’s not at it’s best, and the slight release of endorphins will give you a much needed boost. Once I feel that I’m on the mend I start reintroducing workouts, starting with workouts comprised mainly of static exercises and light cardio before working back up to my high-intensity routine. However, if I have something relatively mild like a cold, I’ll usually continue working out while sick, I’ll just decrease the intensity a little bit and listen to my body carefully throughout.
  • Water: Surprise, surprise, drinking lots and lots of water is a must, as always. Pay even more attention to being well-hydrated while sick, your body needs it! And be aware of the other types of fluids you’re consuming, like Gatorade or Ginger Ale. While they may be soothing they are also usually packed with sugar, and sugar is not going to help you get better.
  • Move: If you’re feeling restless from hours of Netflix, get up and move. While rest is super important for recovery that doesn’t mean you have to be confined to your bed all day. Get up and do some light stretching, wash a few dishes, maybe freshen up and put on something comfy. The movement and slight change of pace can be refreshing and energizing.
  • Get Clean: This one may be totally unnecessary for some people, but for me it’s a must. No matter how sick I am I cannot stand to feel like a mess all day. I always make sure to wash my hair when I feel able, pull my hair back so I feel tidy, brush my teeth and spritz a body spray to feel fresh. While you may feel like a walking disaster area, being as clean and tidy as you can manage can work wonders in your overall mood.

There you go, I hope you’ll all stay healthy and not need to use these tips, but if you do I hope they’ll be helpful.

xoxo, Mary.

My Dietary and Nutrition Guidelines

Hello, lovelies! 

Below I have written out the dietary and nutrition guidelines I live and swear by. There are so many ways to implement healthy habits and core goals into your everyday life, and the difference they can make is incredible!

This information serves as a guideline to help you develop healthy habits and additions to your everyday life that will help you get results. These simple habits can help you in countless ways, from fat loss to the overall health of your body’s systems. I encourage you to start implementing these things into your healthy lifestyle! 🙂

1. WATER! I aim for 75 ounces of water a day. Proper hydration has more benefits then I could possibly write about on here. It helps everything from your skin to your bowels to your cells. 

2. PROTEIN. It is so important to fuel your muscles properly, especially when you’re working out regularly and intensely. Especially if you desire to GAIN muscle, you need to provide it with the proper building blocks for growth. Chicken breast, Turkey, Salmon, Tuna, and Greek Yogurt are just a few great options.

3. HEALTHY FATS. Try to consume healthy fats, things like almonds, avocados, cashews and almond butter.

4. VEGGIES. Every day you should be filling your body with nutrient-rich vegetables. There are so many ways to incorporate them into your diet in delicious ways, so try not to be freaked out if you aren’t a fan of your greens. 

5. VITAMINS AND MINERALS. While vitamin supplements can be great, your goal should be to consume as many of your vitamins and minerals from your food as possible. 

6. FRUITS. Again, great way to get your vitamins. I like to have fruit and berries for snacks every day, or include them in my post-workout smoothies.

7. HEALTHY MAJORITY. I am all about intuitive eating. Having strict rules about what you can and cannot eat often leads to an unhealthy relationship with food. So instead, I encourage women to be aware of what they eat and to be thoughtful about what they consume. The idea is to make the majority or bulk of what you eat healthy. This allows room for occasional treats without you feeling like you’ve ruined everything. That being said, what I’ve found is that the longer you eat healthy the more your body craves healthy, nutrient-rich foods. Over time you’ll find yourself reaching for unhealthy treats less and less.

8. HEALTHY TREATS. Dark chocolate and dried fruit are great for when you’re craving something sweet but don’t want to indulge in the unhealthy.

9. GREEN TEA. Have a cup of Green Tea every day. The antioxidant power is super good for you, not to mention it’s ability to help you fight belly fat. 

10. CHAMOMILE. Drinking Chamomile before bed can help with sleep, a very important and often neglected part of a healthy lifestyle.

11. MORNING LEMON WATER. Drink a glass of hot or cold water with lemon right when you get up. This will supercharge your digestion, a crucial part of maintaining proper absorption of nutrients and excretion of toxins.

12. STEVIA. Stevia is a great supplement for sugar. Avoid things like splenda as they are extremely bad for you. Stevia, however, is a natural sweetener with lots of health benefits.

13. READ THE LABEL. Get in the habit of reading the nutrition label on the back of your food. This simple habit can help you make tons of healthier choices. For example, you may see one product has a higher sugar content than another and you can then choose the less sugary option. Or you may find that one product contains tons of unnatural ingredients and you can then choose a more natural option.

14. ALMOND MILK. Great to have around to add to coffee, smoothies, or just to drink.  It’s much less fattening than regular cow’s milk.

15. MEDICINAL FOOD. Think of food as your medicine, the way you eat can have a drastic impact on you entire body. Partner with your food and try to fuel your body with what it really needs as much as possible. 

16. POST-WORKOUT. Don’t forget to fuel your muscles after your workouts! Below I have my recipe for my post-workout smoothie. You can also workout prior to a high protein meal if you prefer. 

17. MEAL PREPPING. Having healthy meals and snacks available will help you stay on track and provide you with easy, healthy options throughout your week. On the weekend I like to bake a huge batch of veggies and chicken breast and chop lots of fresh fruit to be eaten throughout the week. Below are some easy meal examples:

-Breakfast: Oatmeal with flax meal, chia seeds, raisins, and apple.

                    Egg on top of sauteed yellow squash, zucchini, and bell pepper.

                    Turkey bacon, egg, and sauteed spinach.
-Lunch: Baked Chicken breast with steamed carrots and broccoli.

              Tuna on top of romaine and spinach, drizzled with olive oil and Himalayan salt.

              Spaghetti Squash with ground turkey and Italian herbs.
-Dinner: Bell Peppers stuffed with ground turkey, kale, and a little bit of parmesan.

                Chicken breast with asparagus.

                Baked salmon topped with lemon.
-Snacks: Sliced apple.

                Grapes.

                Almonds, sunflower seeds and raisins.

                Kale chips.
-Post-Workout Smoothie: 

½ cup Greek Yogurt 

Handful Spinach

Handful blueberries and/or strawberries 

½ teaspoon maca root powder (great for balancing hormones)

1 scoop plant based protein powder

1 lemon juiced

1 cup water or ice cubes

1 Tablespoon chia seeds

  

I hope this information has been helpful! The difference each of these things have made in my body have blown me away, so of course I’m thrilled to share them with you all! 🙂 Here’s to a happier and healthier lifestyle! ❤
xoxo, Mary.