#MyCityMoves

What happens when you challenge an entire city to workout for the chance to win $10k in cash prizes? Introducing, #MyCityMoves coming soon to Philadelphia. I am proud to join a bad-ass group of influencers on a mission to turn Philly into the nation’s fittest city. Our team is ready, are you? Register here before March 6 to compete. Let’s be fitter together.

Workin’ It In The Workplace

I’m going to get fit, I thought, as I typed my name into My Fitness Pal for the first third time (I wouldn’t actually begin my fitness journey for another year). I matter-of-factly answered the app’s prompts – height, age, weight, activity level… activity level? For all intents and purposes, My Fitness Pal considers activity level as an individual’s daily routine – at home, at work, or a combination of both – not including purposeful exercise. Be honest with yourself, my inner fit-girl nudged as my finger hovered from active, to lightly active, and finally, sedentary. I actually had to google “sedentary” to convince myself it applied to my day-to-day. Much to my chagrin, it most certainly did. A graphic designer by trade, 8-10 hours of my day are spent with my nose pressed into my Macbook, perched in a rolling chair, housed in a cubical, situated in an office.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-10-07-42-am

There was a time when I viewed my 9-5 as a limitation to achieving my health and fitness goals. But we all know so-called limitations are often poorly-dressed excuses; and we all know we gotta pay the grocery bills (shout out to my main man Trader Joe!). So what do we do? We work, and we Make. It. Work. Today, my workplace is an extension of my healthy lifestyle, and by implementing theses simple practices, yours can be, too!

  • Meal Prep. You’ve read it before (probably from me), “a Sunday well spent brings a week of content.” Truer words have never been written. To make the office a happy, healthy space, we must start outside of the cubicle. Setting aside 2-3 hours on a Sunday to prepare meals for the week makes it easy to pass on the office pizza delivery and prevents pricey lunch-time purchases. Don’t know where to begin? Check out my Meal Prep tips here(Tip: Pick up a trendy lunch tote to transport your meal prep containers in style.)

 

  • Fill Up First. Walk into your office, greet your coworkers with a smile, and head straight for the water cooler, girl. Before you get lost in your inbox and to-do lists, fill up a tumbler with cold H2O and get to sippin’. Make filling your cup a priority, and you are more likely to continue refilling throughout the day. To support your healthy, active lifestyle, it’s recommended that you consume at least half of your body weight in ounces, per day. Why water? Proper hydration prevents cravings (not today, office donuts), eliminates bloat, metabolizes all those meals you prepped, and improves mental alertness. Not to mention, a mermaid-inspired tumbler or chic S’well bottle is the perfect desk accessory.
  • Take a Walk. More often than not, the only breaks we take from our work day are to fuel our post-HIIT hunger. Which, if you’re anything like me, means mindlessly munching on M3, one hand on the keyboard and one hand on the fork. I encourage you to dedicate time (5, 10, 20 minutes) to break from the bustle and get outside, free of distractions. Become aware of your surroundings and let the fresh air flow through your mind and muscles. Chances are, you’ll return to your desk energized, inspired, and ready to take on that tough-to-tackle task you’ve been avoiding.
  • Stretch it Out. If you’re reading this from your desk, get back to work! Just kidding 😉 Keep reading and take note of your posture. Are your shoulders tense? Neck pressed forward? Leg tucked up in your chair? Back and core hunched? I find myself in this position far too often, and it’s my cue to get up and stretch! Take it to a private place and extend your gaze to the ceiling. Sweep your hands over head and take a forward fold. Repeat this a few times, wiggling your toes, bending your core, rolling your shoulders or doing whatever feels good for you. Return to your workspace with a refreshed body and mind.
  • Personalize and Project. Whether you have a corner office with a view or a quaint  middle-of-the-office cubicle, it’s important to make your workspace a vibrant reflection of your balanced lifestyle. From private details like a motivational desktop wallpaper (download here) to #girlboss-inspired desk accessories and stationery, your surroundings will project your Positive Mental Attitude and keep those post-BootyCall endorphins flowing all day long.
  • Tone it Up. Workin’ it out doesn’t have to stop while you’re working. Take your fave moves from the gym to the office and fine-tone all day long. Give me 20 calf raises at the water cooler, 15 squats in the restroom, 10 booty kick-backs while M3 is in the microwave, and keep the core engaged from 9-5.

Fitlicity Faves: Booty Builders

What if I told you there was a place, a place where you could build-a-booty? The kind that rappers rhyme about, the kind that makes Nicki Minaj throw side-eye, the kind that puts the peach emoji to shame? Stop dreaming, sister! This place exists, and I call it… the gym. I hate to burst your bubble, butt you ain’t gonna get the ass you want by sittin’ on it 😉

If you follow my daily dose of fitspiration on the ‘gram, you know I love (I mean really, love) leg + glute day. Something about the sheer power of the lower-bod vs. the squat rack makes me feel like a bad ass (with a good ass 😉 ). That booty burn is just about the only thing that can get me out of bed before sunrise on a Friday.

While my B-cup totally volunteered as Tribute during my fitness journey, my tight & toned tush dreams are staying alive – thanks, in part, to these three moves (honorable mention to the classic Back Squat):

  1. Stiff Leg Deadlift (Barbell): tones the hamstrings + lifts the booty

    *squeeze at the top*

  2. Weighted Glute Bridge (Kettle Bell): pumps up the entire glute + (bonus!) works the core
    img_8163
    *lower, lift, squeeze, repeat*
  3. Kneeling Squat (Smith Machine): isolates the tush + emphasizes the top of the booty
    img_8164
    *lift, push hips forward + squeeze at the top*

Sprinkle these moves into your favorite Leg Day routine for an extra butt-burn, follow immediately with protein, and wait for the pump. Here is a Leg + Booty Burner that left me begging for foam-roller mercy.

BootyBurner.jpg

Now, get to squattin’!

Let’s Talk About Progress

progress

The most important thing about a Health & Fitness Journey is right there in the name. Key word: journey. May I present a montage of ~inspirational~ quotes to spare you a lengthy, wordy explanation of what you already know I want to write. Drum roll please…

That’s right! This whole fit-life thing – despite being as cliche as crying over spilled unsweetened almond milk 😉 – is totally about the journey. All that good (and sometimes not-so-good or scary) stuff between setting a goal and checking it off? That’s where we challenge ourselves, where we meet determination, where we adapt and achieve. It’s where we witness the power of progress and the beauty of becoming.

At this mile-marker of my personal fitness journey, I’m all about maintaining and sustaining. For me, that means making choices that promote a happy, healthy, balanced lifestyle. But what happens when the TIU Bikini Series is over, and you find yourself so far from your starting point with your future in front of you like an open road disappearing into a inspirational-quote emblazoned horizon? (See above 😉 ) When you’re in it for the long haul, acknowledging achievements is key for keeping mental game and physical gains strong. Check out my three favorite ways to measure progress. Spoiler alert: not one involves a scale.

  1. Pose for the Pic. First things first, in the spirit of a health & fitness journey, let’s abandon the terms “before” and “after” and call it all progress. Grab ya white wall, grab ya Calvins, and smile, girl. Pictures help make clear all the progress our minds may dismiss when we look in the mirror each day. Place ’em side-by-side and you have an entirely new perspective on your progress – physically and mentally. I challenge you to look beyond the developing abs and take note of the expression on your face, your posture, and your post-HIIT glow 🙂 Remember, you were always beautiful, but now your workin’ on being faster, stronger, and healthier.
  2. Focus on the Fit. When it comes to clothing, I encourage you to forget the number printed on the label and instead hone in on how pieces feel on your body. Maybe a stubborn button latches up with ease. Maybe your fave jeans are hugging your curves like never before – haaaay booty gains! Whatever it may be, wear what feels good, sister! Confidence is your very best accessory.
  3. Respect the Reps. Close your eyes and picture yourself crushing 15 reps of that exercise. You know the one, the one you dread seeing listed in the Daily Moves. For me, it’s plyo-lunges and lateral tricep extensions. I mean really, who the hell invented plyo-lunges?!  The thing is, with consistent effort, one day your body will accomplish what it couldn’t two weeks, two months, two years ago. You’ll go for another 15 plyo-lunges. You’ll pick up a 10lb dumbbell for that lateral tricep extension. And that, fitties, deserves a big-ass gold star of progress.

Above all, remember that your progress, and your journey, is entirely unique to you. Let go of comparisons and keep doin’ your thang – happy looks good on you, girl 🙂 I’ll leave you with my absolute favorite quote that has resonated so deeply with me as I navigate this happy, healthy, fit lifestyle. Read it n’ repeat it:
quote.jpg

The Art of The Cart

It’s no secret that I love planning my weekly meals (shout out to those Overlapping Ingredients one more time, y’all). In fact, I love it so much, that somewhere along my fitness journey, Friday night bar hopping was replaced by Friday night aisle hopping at my beloved Trader Joe’s. (A tip for all my Trader Joe’s shoppers from a gal who lives directly above the busiest location in America: hit the store Friday after 7 pm or 8 am on the dot Saturday morning and thank me later for bountiful shelves and low lines.)

But let’s keep it real, despite any number of hours spent and lists made, life will barge in on even the most flawless of plans – a meeting will run late, your sweet potato fries will char, you won’t be in the mood for that M5.  Your only defense? Be prepared with the fully stocked kitchen trifecta: cart, pantry, and freezer. Today, we’re talking The Art of The Cart.

The perfect cart is a beautiful balance of familiar foundation ingredients and the excitement of the latest seasonal produce (hello, butternut squash!). Whether built into my planned recipes or the ever important “weekend refrigerator buffer”, these are the staple items I can’t go week-to-week without:

  • 1 carton Almond Milk (unsweetened, original flavor) – The milk of all trades. Think smoothies, baking recipes, emergency mug cake, and Sunday morning Cheerios 😉
  • 1 carton Liquid Egg Whites (or 1 carton eggs) – Egg white muffins are almost always on my weekly menu. Egg whites are also a must for on-the-fly baking recipes and quick scrambles on busy weekends.
  • 2 8oz containers Greek Yogurt – #TIUapproved Craving Compromise? Yes, please! Schedule a healthy sweet treat and stay on track.
  • 1 bunch Bananas – Didn’t buy enough bars for this week’s M4? Eat alone or pair with nut butter for a super easy and satisfying snack. Also, you guessed it, fab for baking.
  • 2 16 oz packages Leafy Greens – From superfood-status meal additions or as the base of an “everything but the kitchen sink” salad, kale and spinach always have a place in my cart.
  • 1 package Heirloom Tomatoes – My fave “dinner is taking too long” munchie 😉 You gotta give yourself one!

weeklycart

A mix of fresh-picked and packaged, each of these essential ingredients serve multiple functions in my kitchen. Plus, paired with items from my perfectly prepped pantry and always-full freezer (blog coming soon!), they come together to create quick, healthy meals when life doesn’t quite go according to plan.

Recipe: Tangy + Sweet Kale Quinoa Salad

Flash back to LBF (life before fit), a series of sad salad chronicles in which my leafy combo of choice consisted solely of romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and diced cucumber. Praise change, people, ’cause these days this girl will put just about anything on top of a bed of kale and quinoa – and it. is. magic.

Fun fact: I’m a real-deal Gemini. So, naturally, my favorite things in life are a little bit of everything, all at once. And food is no exception – crispy and chewy, crunchy and gooey, tangy and sweet. Introducing the Tangy + Sweet Kale Quinoa Salad. A bed of kale and quinoa cradle sweet wintery favorites like blueberries and sweet potato while juicy tangerines tingle your tastebuds. Top it with honey-lemon shrimp for an added tangy + sweet protein punch.

(P.S. I love to experiment in the kitchen, and it seems my favorite measuring tool is a “pinch”. Go with your gut, girl. Start small, you can always add more flavor!)

Tangy + Sweet Kale Quinoa Salad (yields 2-3 servings)

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 3 large bunches Kale – about 5-6 cups chopped (washed, massaged, and chopped)
  • 1 cup Quinoa (cooked and cooled)
  • 1 medium Sweet Potato (chopped and roasted)
    • 1 tsp EVOO
    • pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Blueberries
  • 1/4 cup Pecans (toasted)
  • 3 Tangerines (peeled and sectioned)

fitlicity-salad

Honey-Lemon Shrimp:

  • 12 oz cooked shrimp
  • 1 lemon (juiced)
  • 1 tsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • pinch of sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

fitlicity-shrimp

Directions

Quinoa: Cook up 3/4 cup quinoa (to yield 1 cup cooked) in your favorite way. (Check out this awesome guide to cooking quinoa here!) I love to combine mine in a rice cooker with 1 cup water and 1 cup low sodium Vegetable Broth and let it brew on the “brown rice” setting while I get my chill on.

Sweet Potato: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with non stick cooking spray and set aside. Peel 1 medium sweet potato, slice into rounds (about 1/8″ thick) and quarter rounds into wedges. Place sweet potato wedges in a bowl and toss with 1 tsp EVOO and your favorite seasonings until evenly coated. My go-to is a dash or two of sea salt and cayenne pepper. Spread seasoned sweet potato wedges on baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes, tossing periodically.

Pecans: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet generously with non stick cooking spray. Evenly distribute pecan pieces or halves and toast for 5 minutes. Be careful! Pecans burn easily.

Honey-Lemon Shrimp: Remove any tails or shells from thawed, precooked shrimp. Heat 1 tsp EVOO in a saucepan over medium heat. Add lemon juice and honey, stirring for about 3 minutes until a sauce begins to form. Add cooked shrimp and heat for about 3-4 minutes, tossing ingredients until shrimp is covered in sauce. Pinch in salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. Remove from heat to keep from over cooking.

Salad: In a large bowl, combine chopped kale and cooled quinoa, tossing thoroughly. Add toasted pecans, roasted sweet potatoes, whole blueberries, and tangerine slices – give it another good toss! Top individual servings with 4-6 oz Honey-Lemon shrimp, allowing the sauce to act as your dressing.

img_4778

 

Fitlicity Faves: Snack Bars

The health & wellness market is saturated with trendy products and endless opportunities for new! and better! Which, for fit-gals like us, is a combination of totally freakin’ awesome (I mean, they make pasta from chickpeas now?!) and totally confusing (nutrition label say what?!). When I started my fitness journey I hit the shelves runnin’- trying all the things until I figured out (through a lot of research paired with a little bit of trial-and-error) what products were the @perfectfit 😉 for my lifestyle.

Introducing Fitlicity Faves, a series where I’ll clue you in on a few of my favorite things – from grab n’ go snacks to booty sculpting moves. (*Disclaimer: I am a fit-girl-in-progress, and admittedly still learning!) 

Let’s start with the grand daddy of them all… the BAR. Quest, Luna, Lara, Macro, Pure, Kind… the list goes on, and on, and on. So, a girl walks into a bar… The punchline? She just consumed too many processed ingredients to pronounce and over half of her sugar intake for the day. *sigh*

After experimenting with quite a few protein and snack bars, I’ve found 3 super-star faves that I am proud to recommend to any fittie. Considering taste, texture, nutritional value, and ingredients, I present to you my most nommed-on bars.

The rating scale explained:

Taste: Does the bar taste like the flavor it’s claiming on the package? Is it balanced or, my protein-pet-peeve, way too coconut-y? Does it have the “OMG this could be a brownie” factor? There’s that sweet tooth again! I often turn to bars when I’m looking for a better alternative to a sweet treat, so you’ll see the chocolate theme running strong here.

Texture: Too hard, too sticky, too light, or just right? My palette craves a little bit of dense and a little bit of fluffy 🙂

Nutritional Value: Protein, sodium, sugar, oh my! When it comes to selecting bars, I’m setting the calories aside, babe. I’m much more concerned with artificial sweeteners, protein bases, and hidden sodium levels.

Ingredients: How long is your list? My personal dietary philosophy gravitates towards minimal, whole, and easy-to-read ingredients.

  1. Square Organics (Square Bar): Okay, Square is totally the new black. These perfectly packaged bars are packed with simple, organic ingredients and boast 10-12 g of plant-based protein per serving – score! But the real stand-out factor, they taste (and feel) like biting into a decadent chocolate coated dessert. I gotta say it again – these really taste like candy bars. My fave flavors are Chocolate Coated Crunch, Chocolate Coated Peanut Butter, and Chocolate Coated Nuts and Chocolate.

    P.S. Square Organics and I are having a love affair 😉 Use the code “tiu_albabe” at check out for 20% off your order! The only thing in it for me is knowing you can enjoy this little morsel of squaradise.

  2. RXBAR: With an average of 12g of egg white protein and minimal ingredients RX Bars put it all on the package – literally, the first thing you see when you pick up the bar is the ingredients. What. A. Dream. There are some “Natural Flavors” in the RXBAR, but nothing a little moderation can’t handle. All the rich, dense taste does pack a rich, dense chew, so be prepared to work those jaw muscles just a lil’ bit 😉 My fave flaves are Blueberry, Chocolate Sea Salt, and Peanut Butter!
  3. LÄRABAR: When it comes to simple ingredients, LÄRABAR takes the cake – or shall I say the gluten-free cookie dough? With the average bar being comprised of just 5 ingredients (yes, really!), LÄRABAR takes out all the guess work of reading nutrition labels. If it’s added protein you’re looking for, you won’t find too much of it under these wrappers, but what you will find are melt-in-your-mouth, sweet ingredients that satisfy hunger without weighing you down. My fave flavors (so far, there are so many to try!) are Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Blueberry Muffin.

 

Recipe: Very Berry Oat Bars (GF,V)

Confession: I’m a happy, healthy gal with a major sweet tooth. Brownies, cupcakes, and pies – you bake it, I like it. More often than I’d like to admit, former me could be found in the aisles of the corner bodega, picking up a freshly processed pack of TastyKakes. Turns out refined sugar and crazy chemical additives were not benefiting my bod – like, at all.

Since adjusting my eating habits, I’ve found that my cravings can be managed with naturally sweet ingredients that align with my lifestyle (think maple syrup, honey, cacao, fresh fruit and even protein powder). When it comes to experimenting in the kitchen, I opt for gluten free, no-sugar added recipes that fit into one of my favorite molds – muffin or donut, anyone? Check out my blog on Craving Compromises for even more sweet treats 🙂

And so this Very Berry Oat Bar recipe was born. The love child of a few different Pinterest finds, sweet berry-chia jam and a golden oat crust are a mix n’ match made in heaven. Gluten free, vegan, and no-sugar added, these chewy berry bars will have that sweet tooth singing hallelujah!

img_3538

Very Berry Oat Bar (yields 10-12 bars)

Ingredients

Berry Chia Jam:

  • 16 oz. frozen berries (I opted for a mixed blend of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries)
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds (hello, nutritional powerhouse!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

ingredients-berryjam

Oat Crust:

  • 3 cups GF rolled oats (divided)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

ingredients-crust

 

Directions

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9 x 12 baking dish with aluminum foil and spray generously with your favorite cooking oil. Set aside and prepare jam and crush while oven preheats.

Berry Chia Jam:

  1. Combine frozen fruit and maple syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Mix gently with a wooden spoon. Heat until berries begin to release liquid. Bring berry mixture to a boil until berries begin to break down and thicken, about 10 minutes. (If you’re using a mixed blend, break down time will vary depending on berry. Use your wooden spoon to gently assist stubborn blueberries.)
  2. Stir in the chia seeds and vanilla extract and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool until desired consistency is reached. Jam will continue to thicken the longer it sits.

Crust:

  1. Place 1 ½ cups of GF oats in a food processor (or nutribullet, or blender!) and process until reaching a flour consistency. Set aside.
  2. Completely mash bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add maple syrup and vanilla extract and combine fully.
  3. In a separate bowl combine 1 ½ cups processed oats, 1 ½ cup rolled oats, and baking powder. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Transfer dry mixture into large mixing bowl with mashed banana and mix until a dough is formed.

 

Bars:

  1. Spread 2/3 of the crust mixture onto foil-lined baking dish. Use your fingers to press and shape the dough, forming a tightly packed rectangular base.
  2. Layer the berry chia jam on to the crust, using a spoon to spread evenly. Be sure to leave some room around the edges to prevent jam from burning.
  3. Separate the remaining crust mixture into smaller portions, rolling into balls and flattening with your hands. Place patches of crust mixture on top of the jam until an even top layer is formed. Pinch patches together with fingers for a more seamless crust. Don’t be afraid to let that jam peek through!
  4. Bake for 30 minutes until crust turns golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool completely before transferring to cutting board and dividing evenly into bars.

Receipts Rejoice!

True or False: healthy eating is just too expensive. So very, very false, sister!

Repeat after me, every dollar spent on your health is a seriously good investment. However, a lean, clean, and green lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to break the bank at the grocery checkout line each week. Avoid receipt remorse with these 5 money saving tips, and go spend that extra $20 on the drop-in hot yoga you’ve been dying to try 🙂

  1. Make a List (and stick to it). No list? Back away from the Trader Joe’s, girl. Walking into the bright, white light of grocey heaven without a plan means only one thing for your budget: it’s blown. Wander aimlessly from aisle to aisle and your cart will fill with unnecessary items faster than you can say, “quinoa.” Before putting the pen to paper (or the thumbs to the keyboard), read up on my “Week of Eats” blog for the low-down on my favorite cost-effective tip – Overlapping Ingredients – and bring your grocery A-game. (Tip: To compliment Overlapping Ingredients, look for strategic substitutes in your planned recipes. If your ONOs call for dried cranberries and your kale salad calls for raisins, pick one of these sweet ingredient cousins and roll with it!)
  2. Protein + Pantry in Bulk. When shopped wisely (key word: wisely), big-box stores like Costco and BJ’s protect your pretty pennies with wholesale prices. Limit your purchases to items you use regularly, like protein and pantry essentials, to avoid surplus-spending. My favorite big-box finds:
    • Chicken
    • Frozen Seafood – Tilapia, Shrimp, Salmon (Tip: Some of you may be thinking, “Really, Al? Frozen Seafood?” Before you knock it, check your preferred grocer’s seafood counter labels. If you’re looking at fine print that reads: Previously Frozen, you could be paying up to 40% less for the same product a few aisles over.)
    • EVOO
    • Maple Syrup
    • Zero Sodium Spice Blend
  3. Nontraditional Grocers. As a car-less fittie in a big city, thinking outside the health-box is key when it comes to cost savings. In times of ingredient-need, say goodbye to pricey specialty shops and hello to nontraditional grocers! Online grocery services like my personal favorite, Amazon, carry those hard-to-find ingredients without the sky-high markup of boutique providers. My favorite Amazon purchases:
    • Quinoa
    • Pasta Alternatives (like Banza!)
    • Powdered Peanut Butter
    • Protein Bars
  4. Don’t Discriminate. Frozen veggies are veggies, too! I love stocking up on frozen produce like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and green beans. Not only are frozen choices just as easy (if not easier!) to prepare, but their long shelf-life maximizes your spending and prevents waste.
  5. C.I.Y. (Chop It Yourself). Do you find yourself tempted by the allure of prepared meals and pre-cut produce? Snap of out of the life-without-cubing-butternut-squash day dream, girl! Before tossing that Quinoa Pilaf (you know the one) in your cart, check the price tag and nutrition label. Chances are, you’re about to pay big time for some wonky ingredients you can’t pronounce. Purchasing individual, whole ingredients will often save you half the price, and over half the sodium levels.