Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How My Workouts Changed - Third Trimester

Me on my due date, about to hit the gym

I was really proud of how I kept up my exercise routine throughout my whole pregnancy. I didn't want to use the excuse of being really large or tired in the third trimester to suddenly quit. It was important to me that I kept exercising, not only for postpartum recovery, but also for the benefit of our baby.

I kept up with my workout regimen from the second trimester, with some minor modifications. I continued to walk on the treadmill whenever I could at work, usually 2-3 times a week for 30-60 minutes, and stuck with incline walking at the gym for my cardio of choice. I continued to lift weights, and always aimed for three days (back & bicep, legs, and chest, shoulders and triceps), but often ended up doing two days (one upper body, one lower body). I was also religious about doing my prenatal yoga and Pilates every night before bed. I did the 15 minute yoga sequence and about 10-15 minutes of Pilates. I started doing less ab work at the gym, and started doing more kegels and belly breathing, rather than things like planks or oblique twists.

I found I was able to keep the weights for upper body strength training the same as I had in the second trimester (which was slightly lower than I did in the first trimester), but my lower body actually was becoming stronger. I suppose with the 20-25 extra pounds I was carrying around in this trimester, my legs were building up strength, even though I wasn't working out as intensely as I was before being pregnant.

I really expected pregnancy to make me feel weak and tired all the time, and there were definitely those days, but overall, I felt amazing. I felt strong, comfortable, and often times felt I could have pushed myself more, but knew I had to be careful. Looking back now almost a year later, there's not anything I would have done differently throughout my pregnancy. I put a lot of work into making sure I was active and ate well for those 41 weeks. I have no doubt it helped me bounce back quickly after baby was born, and played a very important part in how healthy Harper was when she arrived.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

How My Workouts Changed - Second Trimester

The second trimester is often referred to as the "honeymoon" phase of pregnancy. It's a time when most women are no longer struggling with morning sickness, nausea, food aversions, but they aren't big and uncomfortable yet like in the third trimester.

I expected my second trimester to require more modifications than the first trimester. For a while, it didn't, but when I hit 20 weeks or so, my body was definitely telling me to slow down and take the intensity down. I stopped running at week sixteen, and replaced it with incline walking. I replaced my yoga routine with prenatal yoga, started using lighter weights for lifting, and was no longer doing any cycling or HIIT. I started doing prenatal pilates every day starting at 24 weeks. I attended a pilates seminar at a local yoga studio specifically designed for pregnant women, which taught pilates moves to prevent diastasis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles). It was extremely insightful, and I did these exercises every night before bed from 24 - 41 weeks. It was well worth the commitment too, because my midwife confirmed that I had no separation at my 6 week post-partum appointment. Hallelujah!

I also bought this prenatal yoga DVD and did it every night before bed as well. They have 15, 30 and 45 minute videos, I always did the 15 minute video, and loved what it did for my hips and back at the end of each day.

Another change I needed was extra rest days. My job requires me to be on my feet a lot - sometimes the full work day. I found that during those days, I didn't feel like I had the energy or stamina to go to the gym after work. I took advantage of the motion work stations provided at my work 3-5 times a week. I would dock my computer there for the first hour of the day, read and return emails, and get 2.5 miles of walking in to start the work day. It was a great way for me to get in additional light exercise throughout my pregnancy, especially in those cold winter months.

Here's a snapshot of what my average week looked like for the second trimester:

Sunday: Prenatal pilates and yoga

Monday: 60 minutes walking on treadmill at work, upper body weights, prenatal pilates and yoga

Tuesday: 60 minutes walking on treadmill at work, prenatal pilates and yoga

Wednesday: 60 minutes incline walking, prenatal pilates and yoga

Thursday: Prenatal pilates and yoga

Friday: 60 minutes walking on treadmill at work, prenatal pilates and yoga

Saturday: Legs, 20 minutes inclined walking, prenatal pilates and yoga

I know it looks like a lot, as if I never had a rest day, but in reality I was only at the gym 2-3 times a week for weights, and inclined walking (italicized items above). The prenatal pilates and yoga were done every day at home and took 30 minutes before bed. Plus, the walking I did at work was a major time saver, because I could multitask, and it meant I didn't have to go to the gym after work if I wasn't up for it.

Overall, I was very happy with the workout routine I maintained through the second trimester and have no doubt that it is why I avoided all hip and back pain that so many women complain about.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Apple Nachos

These have quickly become my favorite Fall snack. Every year, we pick way too many apples at the orchard and I'm at a loss of how to use them all before they go bad. I don't like warm apple desserts, so that eliminates apple crisps and pies. I haven't pushed myself to find other creative uses for them until this year. So far, this is my favorite recipe!

Start by slicing an apple into thin rings and placing on a plate. 

Warm some caramel sauce and drizzle over apple slices.

Then, add your desired toppings. I used dried coconut chips, sliced almonds and chocolate chips. 

You could really go in a million directions with this. Instead of caramel sauce, use peanut butter, almond butter, chocolate sauce, or Nutella. You could top with any nut, dried fruit, banana chips, candy pieces, jam, cottage cheese, herbs, anything really. Let me know if you give these a try and have any fun combinations!

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Nutrition Spotlight: Tone It Up Review

I am not one to fall into any sort of diet fads. I find them interesting to research, and often find that they force a certain level of creativity out of cooks, which can result in some really delicious, unique recipes. But that's really the extent of my interest in most cases. In my day to day life, I am very healthy, but have never considered how I eat a diet. It's a lifestyle, not some temporary way to change my eating to hit a certain number on the scale. I wasn't always this way, trust me. I tried juice fasts, detox diets, and weight loss drinks. When I started studying nutrition and dietetics in college, my focus really started to shift from dieting to clean eating. I'm still in no way where I want to be; many days, weekends (or weeks :-/ ) are often filled with far too much sugar and eating out. So knowledge isn't everything, because I feel I have a lot of knowledge on the subject, but like anyone else, often loose focus and motivation. 

Enter, the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan. Like I said above, I'm sooo not into diets, which is why I was so intrigued by the Tone It Up Plan when I came across it. These girls really stress clean eating as a lifestyle, not a temporary fix to meet goals. They don't eliminate any food or food groups (but they do have many options like vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. if you need that) and teach you how to eat well while still being able to enjoy treats and some cocktails. They also have a great exercise plan that comes with the nutrition plan. 

I researched it and heard nothing but rave reviews from everyone who purchased it, and I was intrigued because I thought it would finally motivate me to clean up my eating habits which seemed to be going downhill with a new baby. It's easy to fall into the habit of eating out all the time, and using breastfeeding as an excuse to have a dessert after every meal! 

I knew I needed to hit reset and thought this would be the ticket. So, I pulled the trigger and payed $150 for the plan. At first, I have to admit, I was overwhelmed. I got 7 PDF files filled with information on their plan and I read through it all before leaving it untouched for a week. Then, I slowly started reading through pieces to incorporate into my daily life and found that I love it! I think it would be awesome for anyone new to healthy eating, as they tell you what to eat, when to eat, and why. I love that they add some nutrition science to really educate their subscribers. Plus, once you pay for the nutrition plan, your a member for life and get updates to the plan which include exercise circuits and recipes. 

I don't follow the plan as they intended, but I do think it offers very sound nutrition advice. I've started incorporating some of the recipes into my daily diet and so far, love every one of them. The Tone It Up community is really awesome as well. They have their own member site, and are very active on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I've found many amazing recipes through Tone It Up members on Instagram. 

Overall, I'm very pleased with the plan. For me, it was a great tool to kick start clean eating again, and I look forward to incorporating more and more of their workouts and meals into my daily diet. 

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Fall is in the air, as they say. It's that wonderfully awkward time where I'm unsure what to wear every day; jeans and a sweater early in the day, which usually requires a change into shorts and a t-shirt by mid-day. And what do I cook? Sometimes it's too hot for anything but smoothies and salads, and other days the only thing appropriate to eat seems to be soup and hot tea.

I bought a huge butternut squash from the market last weekend and intended on making a butternut squash soup, but with temperatures in the 80's, soup just didn't sound appealing. So, I improvised and came out with a delicious pizza. Caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash, thyme and a pungent kick of garlic make for a killer pizza combo - who knew?

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza


- Store bought whole wheat pizza dough (or homemade)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups cubed, roasted butternut squash (basic recipe for this in step 1 of directions)
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese


1. For caramelized butternut squash, I deseeded and cubed a 4 pound squash, and mixed 2 Tbsp melted butter, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp salt and some fresh cracked black pepper in a bowl until evenly coated. Then spread evenly on a couple baking sheets and baked in a 400 F oven for about 50 minutes. Make sure not to crowd the cookie sheets, otherwise your squash ends up steamed and not caramelized.

2. Heat 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp olive oil in nonstick pan over medium low heat. Add thinly sliced red onion to pan and cook over low heat until onions are caramelized. This takes about 45 minutes over low heat.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 F. Spray pizza pan with cooking spray. Roll out pizza crust to desired thickness and transfer to pizza pan. Cook for 5 minutes.

4. Once onions are done, place approximately 1 Tbsp olive oil over partially cooked pizza crust. (This amount will vary depending upon how thinly you rolled your dough and how large a surface area you have). Place minced garlic over oiled pizza crust. Top with caramelized onions and roasted butternut squash. Sprinkle with dried thyme (fresh would also work) and finally, the mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is slightly browned.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Greek Salmon

I think it's about time we detox from all the s'more recipes. What better way to do that than with a fresh piece of Greek salmon?

I had salmon on the menu that night, and was going to make my traditional maple cardamom salmon (will blog this recipe another time, it's amazing!), when I saw my overgrown basil plant in the backyard. I decided to make a fresh pesto instead to top the salmon with, which ended up being an excellent decision. When I saw the black olives we bought from a vendor at the farmer's market last weekend, and the overflowing basket of tomatoes that needed to be used, I knew I had all the makings for an awesome Greek salad.

This was such a hit in our house, I ended up making it the next night on grilled chicken. And would I look totally obsessed if I also told you that I used the leftover Greek salad in my eggs the next morning?  Maybe? I think you may understand once you give this a try yourself. Seriously, it's simple cooking at it's finest.

Served it with a side of my caramelized brussels sprouts (still my favorite vegetable side dish), and you have a simple and clean meal in under 30 minutes.

Greek Salmon
Serves 2


- 2 pieces of salmon (about 6 oz each)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh or store bought pesto
- 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
- 1/3 cup black olives, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. feta cheese, diced
- 2 Tbsp. red onion, diced


1. Heat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and place salmon fillets on top. Place 1 Tbsp pesto over each piece of salmon and coat evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

2. Assemble the salad by combining tomato, black olives, feta cheese and red onion in a small bowl. Toss to combine. Once salmon is cooked through, top each piece with a generous portion of the salad and serve. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Homemade S'mores Ice Cream Sandwiches

Yes, another s'mores recipe! I guess I was really craving some this past weekend, when I made both these ice cream sandwiches and the brownies. I promise after this one, I'm done with s'mores recipes for a while! I've got some super healthy recipes up my sleeve for you all, which will make up for these indulgences. It's all about balance ;)

I wanted to attempt to make my favorite treat from Trader Joe's, their s'mores ice cream sandwich, from scratch. If you haven't tried these yet, you must! Or, maybe, just make this homemade version instead.

I purchased an ice cream maker this summer, and used it to make a toasted marshmallow ice cream, which I sandwiched between two graham crackers and rolled in dark chocolate.

To start, layer a 8x8 with parchment paper and line with graham cracker squares.

Next, make the vanilla ice cream. I use the traditional vanilla ice cream recipe that came in the recipe booklet with the ice cream maker.

While it is mixing, place 1 cup of mini marshmallows in a heat proof skillet and place in the top third of the oven under the broiler. Toast to desired liking. I like a nice golden brown. 

Set aside and let cool completely. Once the ice cream is in the final 5 minutes of churning and the marshmallows have cooled, scoop small spoonfuls into ice cream maker. Doing small amounts at a time is key, otherwise it freezes right away when it touches the ice cream and you end up with a big mass of frozen marshmallow in your ice cream. 

Once ice cream is done churning, scoop ice cream over the graham crackers in the 8x8 pan and level with a rubber spatula. Top with remaining graham cracker squares, cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 2 hours. 

Once hardened, lift from pan by pulling on parchment paper. Cut around graham cracker squares with a large knife until you have nine even squares (plus the little extra pieces at the end).

Roll the sides of each sandwich in mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings. If you don't have either of these, chop regular chocolate chips with a knife to create shavings and mini chunks. 

Place each sandwich in a Ziploc bag and freeze!

S'mores Ice Cream Sandwiches
Makes 9 sandwiches


- Base ingredients for vanilla ice cream (usually whole milk, heavy cream, vanilla, salt, sugar)
- 1 cup mini marshmallows
- 9 graham cracker sheets, snapped in half (more if you want to fill the 8x8 and do small end pieces, see pictures)
- 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings


1. Make base for vanilla ice cream and chill for instructed time (this is often 1-2 hours, minimum). 

2. Line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper and place 9 graham cracker squares, spaced evenly, along the bottom. 

3. Start churning ice cream. Meanwhile, turn on broiler and place marshmallows in heat proof skillet. Place marshmallows in top third of oven, under the broiler. Watch carefully as the toasting happens very quickly! Once browned, remove from oven and let marshmallows cool completely. When ice cream is about 5 minutes away from being complete, take small spoonfuls of the toasted marshmallows and add to ice cream maker, as it is running. Continue until all marshmallows are added. 

4. Once ice cream is complete, scoop into 8x8 pan with graham crackers. Level the ice cream with a rubber spatula and top with remaining graham cracker squares, trying your best to make them line up with the crackers on the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours, or until completely frozen. 

5. Once frozen, remove ice cream and graham crackers from pan by lifting on parchment paper. Using a large knife, cut around the graham cracker squares until you have nine uniform sandwiches. 

6. Place chocolate chips/shavings on a plate and roll each side of the sandwiches in it, pressing to help them adhere, if needed. Place in small plastic bags and freeze! Enjoy!

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Monday, September 23, 2013

S'mores Brownies

Happy Monday, aaand Happy Fall! As I'm sure most Midwesterners can attest, Fall is bittersweet. I love the cooler weather, changing leaves, boots and chunky scarves, but I also know it means a Minnesota winter is upon us, and that tends to leach any excitement out of me pretty quickly. But, that's nothing a warm, gooey s'mores brownie can't fix! 

Most people tend to think of s'mores as a summertime treat. But, I love them in the Fall, when the evenings are finally cool enough to light a bonfire in the backyard. These brownies are great, because there is no campfire required, meaning, you can make these all year round! 

These are so easy to throw together, and are to die for. Seriously, make these as quickly as you can!

Start with any boxed brownie mix, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and honey graham crackers.

Make the brownies as directed. Easy, peasy.

Set oven to broil and add 1 1/2 cups of mini marshmallows in an even layer over the warm brownies.

Next, spread 1/4 cup chocolate chips over the marshmallows. 

Set oven rack in top third of oven and place brownies under broiler. Watch carefully, the browning happens quickly! Once browned (or charred) to desired level, remove from oven. 

Crumble 2 sheets of graham crackers and press into warm marshmallows. Let cool slightly before serving. 

S'mores Brownies
Makes 16 

1 package of brownie mix
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1/4 cup chocolate chips (dark, milk or semi-sweet)
2 sheets of honey graham crackers


Make one package of brownie mix as directed on package. Turn oven broiler on. Top brownies with 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows. Top marshmallows with 1/4 cup chocolate chips and place on oven rack in top third of oven under the broiler. Watch constantly, the marshmallows will brown quickly and can burn very easily. Once browned to desired liking, remove from oven and press the crumbled graham cracker sheets into marshmallows. Let cool slightly, then cut with knife sprayed with cooking spray to keep the marshmallows from sticking. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How My Workouts Changed - First Trimester

I wasn't blogging through my first trimester, but if I was, you probably wouldn't have found many differences in my eating or activity level. I felt amazing my whole pregnancy, even in the first trimester when many women are plagued with morning sickness and food aversions (yes, I do know how lucky I am to have avoided that!).  I believe strongly that my pregnancy went as well as it did because I continued to eat well and exercise 4-6 times a week. I didn't experience any back pain, swelling, or tiredness - even at 41 weeks pregnant.

There are many "rules" out there about what you can and cannot do when you're pregnant, and that is especially the case with exercise. The most common rules I heard was not increasing your heart rate above 140 BPM and to stop doing core work. Before I talk about any exercises I did while pregnant, I have to preface by saying, I am not a doctor or personal trainer.  I was physically active before being pregnant and did consult with my midwife regularly about my exercise as my pregnancy progressed. I was also not a high-risk pregnancy, and do know there are many women out there that have to make modifications early on, or cease activity all together because of complications that come up.

10 Weeks Pregnant

Though my pregnancy as a whole was terrific, early in the first trimester I did have some complications that forced me to take a couple weeks off exercise. It wasn't bed rest, but I was encouraged to avoid all activity, including walking, as much as possible. Aside from this two week stint, I resumed my normal workouts. I continued with my normal core work, running, biking, lifting weights, doing HIIT and practicing yoga. I continued to do regular yoga, I hadn't switched over to prenatal yoga yet, as my belly hadn't grown at all, and it didn't feel awkward to be on my tummy, back, doing inversions, or twists. I didn't lift less weight when strength training, as is often recommended. Because your body starts producing the hormone relaxin, which causes your joints to become more loose, it is often recommended that you lift lighter. I did switch over to using more machines, rather than free weights, which reduce the risk of injury by offering a certain level of assistance, but continued to use the same weight. I didn't make any changes to my core work, running, biking or interval training at this point.

My HR was often above 190 BPM when exercising, but because this is normal and comfortable to me, my doctor and midwife didn't see any reason to be concerned. My doctor recommended using my perceived level of exertion as a means to measure if I was pushing too hard, rather than watching my heart rate monitor. He recommended that I not exceed a level of exertion that prevented me from talking while exercising.

Late in my pregnancy, when my HR monitor would pick up on my heart rate AND baby's HR.

While I understand not everyone will be able to maintain this kind of exercise regimen while pregnant, I think it's important to hear that there are women out there that can continue their normal workout routine after finding out they're pregnant. Of course, if anything feels uncomfortable, or not right, take that seriously and dial it back. Talk with your doctor or midwife about what they recommend, but understand that the recommendations you read on the Internet aren't going to be suitable for every women and every pregnancy. Use your intuition and do what feels best for your body and baby.

Two of my favorite blogs on pregnancy fitness are and I also subscribed to Fit Pregnancy and found it very useful throughout my pregnancy.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Gingerbread Granola

When Harper was first born, I spent every moment I could soaking up her newness and taking it easy. Friends and family delivered meals, and we often grabbed gyros from a local Greek restaurant down the street, or ordered takeout from our favorite Indian restaurant. It was what we needed to do in those first few weeks, but I was more than ready to start cooking meals at home. Now that we are (maybe?) starting to develop a predictable schedule, I have been able to start cooking and baking more and more during nap times.

I have dozens of starred recipes in my bloglovin account and recipes torn out of magazines that I read over the course of my maternity leave (last day of my leave is today!). One of those recipes was this granola recipe. I love making granola from scratch. It's so simple, and so easy to change up - add a different nut, sweetener or dried fruit, the options are endless.

Gingerbread Granola Recipe
Adapted from Cookie and Kate


4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raw walnut pieces
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/3 cup candied ginger, finely chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, walnuts, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Stir to combine.

3. In a small bowl combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, molasses and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.

4. Add wet mixture over dry oat mixture and stir to coat. Turn granola out onto prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and top with unsweetened coconut. Stir to mix and spread back out on an even layer on pan. Place back in oven and bake for 10 minutes.

5. While granola continues cooking, chop dried cranberries and candied ginger. Once granola is done baking, remove from oven and top with chopped cranberries and ginger. Stir to combine, and let cool for 20-30 minutes. Granola will be slightly wet once removing from oven, but will continue to cook and dry as it cools.

6. Once completely cool, store in airtight container for up to two weeks. Pin It