Pea Pesto Pasta

Today is such an exciting day for me as I have been patiently waiting to share this recipe with you! After so much trial & error I finally came up with a recipe I am proud to call my own. I will be sharing with you my recipe for the perfect pesto pasta that is not only delicious but loaded with a variety of nutrients. Pesto is one of those foods that I know so many people love but it can typically be pretty price to make at home all because of the very pricey pine nuts. Not only is pesto a little pricey to make at home but it is also not the healthiest. Pesto is is typically loaded with olive oil & Parmesan cheese which contributes quite a bit of calories in just a small amount. In order to make this pesto healthier & more cost-effective I made a few changes.

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The BEST Red Salsa

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Today was a very exciting day as I finally got to harvest the peppers I have been growing in my little garden. I have spent so much time & effort into growing my garden because what’s better than homegrown food? The answer to that is absolutely nothing because right away I ran to my kitchen to get to work on a new & improved salsa recipe. I decided to utilize the Anaheim chiles I picked because they were the largest & I know my mom swears by these chiles & her salsa is some of the best I have ever had in my life (I’m not just saying that either mom).  After whipping up the batch today, I will never go back to a salsa where I don’t include the Anaheim chiles. These peppers while mild provide SO much flavor that it tastes like it took hours instead of minutes. The Anaheim chiles add a depth of flavor that according to my boyfriend, is the best salsa I have ever made, I can’t argue with that. There are a few things I did differently this time that made the world of a difference and I am going to share them with you so you can boost your salsa game.

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Mango & Lime Popsicles

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I don’t know about you, but whenever the weather surpasses 90°F I pretty much want to avoid hot/warm foods as much as possible. During the summertime, I tend to like more cold & crisp treats to help cool down as much as possible. With that being said, over the course of the last few weeks, I have been working diligently to perfect these popsicles so it tastes like a summer explosion in your mouth. After lots of trial and error, I finally nailed it. So much so, that I had to make 3 batches several days in a row because Adrian kept eating them even though I told him I needed to do the pictures for them. Mango has always been one of my all-time favorite fruits but I have to admit I don’t always buy them because they can be a pain to cut as they leak their juice all over the place and things can very quickly become messy. I figured these popsicles would be an easy solution to that problem so if you’re like me and don’t like the mess, you can still enjoy the delicious and juicy mangos this season.

Mangos are rich in Vitamins A & C which are powerful antioxidants that help to slow the aging process. They are also a great source of fiber which is important for proper digestion. In addition to the mango, I also added some lime juice which is also rich in Vitamin C but in this case, we just added it for tartness to contrast the sweetness of the mango.

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Depending on how ripe & sweet your mangos are you may not need to do so, but I added in a bit of organic honey to boost the sweetness a bit. Before adding in the honey, I suggest tasting your popsicle mix to see if it needs additional sweetening. If so, add in small amounts and adjust to taste. Ever since I came across this honey at Ralphs, I have been obsessed with the flavor and don’t think I will ever go back to any other brand. I scored this on a special closeout sale which brought the price down to $3.99 which is much better than the regular $10 price tag. If you have a Ralphs near you, I highly recommend you track this honey down to try it for yourself. Anyways, this post is NOT sponsored but I just really really like the flavor of this honey so I figured I would mention it just in case any of you are interested.  Nonetheless, you can use any honey/sweetener you’d like. I will quickly mention that organic raw honey has antimicrobial & anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial for those who suffer from seasonal allergies (Adrian has the worst). Although I have previously mentioned I like to utilize maple syrup more because it is minimally processed (if at all), if you can find organic & raw honey then there are also added benefits.

All in all,  these popsicles take about 5 minutes to prep and are as simple as filling in the mold and allowing them to freeze overnight. Prep them in advance and you have a healthy & delicious treat the whole family will love!

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Stuffed Zucchini (Two ways)

Zucchini boats (two ways)

In the last few weeks, I have spent so much time working on various recipes but sometimes they take longer to develop than others. The process of running a food blog is that of trial and error. I would say most of the time, the process of creating recipes is fairly straight forward but that’s not always the case. The last few recipes I have tried to nail have been an absolute headache, but I wanted to put out something I knew would be easy and delicious and that is how these zucchini boats came to be. Now, I personally tend to eat more vegetarian style on a day-to-day basis but I wanted to give you a healthier option that also contained leaner sources of protein because I realize not everyone centers their meals around veggies. So with that being said, I have provided a recipe with both a vegetarian option and a ground turkey version so that way no matter how you eat, you can find something that works for you and your lifestyle. In addition, these are also great if you are being mindful of your carb intake which can be important if you are prediabetic or full-onset diabetic. However, even if you’re like me and obsessed with everything carbs, you will love these because they are absolutely delicious and definitely do not taste “healthy”.

These zucchini boats are so incredibly easy and more importantly packed with tons of flavor. They come together in 30-40 minutes and are perfect to prep in advance for a busy week ahead. I packed them to take to work a few days in a row just because they were so easy, filling, & nutritious.  I didn’t bake the zucchini for too long because I wanted them to maintain their shape so you could eat it like a taco if you want.  That’s how I ate them and I basically shoveled them into my mouth one after another because they’re that good.  I definitely think they’re worth a try and keep in mind like all my other recipes, you can sub whatever veggies you have on hand. Now that I’ve rambled on long enough, let’s get into what you will need to make the 2 variations of these zucchini boats.

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Soy & Lime Veggie Skewers

Veggie Skewers

Since the weather has warmed up, I have been taking advantage of the relatively nice weather and grilling outside. During the warmer months, I prefer to grill because it helps to avoid heating up the house by using the oven. Also, the fact that it gives food a perfectly smokey & delicious char is an added bonus.  Adrian & I have been on a grilled corn kick and the other day when we were waiting for it to finish up, I started thinking about how good skewers would be charred on the grill.  I feel like skewers or kabobs scream summer and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to show you yet another way to incorporate more veggies into your diet in a non-boring way.  Since these skewers do not have meat, I knew that meant I needed to do something to these veggies to make them burst with flavor so that is when I started playing around with marinade ideas. I wasn’t really sure what kind of flavor I wanted them to have, but I just started combining flavors I knew would be delicious. First, I added soy sauce for that umami/salty flavor and then proceeded to add in minced garlic because I can’t think of a time where garlic & soy sauce ever tasted bad. To cut the saltiness a bit, I added in some lime juice for some acidity and lastly included some organic raw honey for sweetness. As I whisked away I continued to taste it to make sure everything was balanced and before I knew it, I had created the perfect balance of sweet & savory. This marinade can really be used for anything but I highly recommend you try marinating mushrooms for these skewers because it will change your life! Since mushrooms are so porous and spongelike, they absorb the marinade very well and pack a lot of flavor into each mushroom.  The longer you marinate these for the better they taste so I would recommend leaving them for as long as you possibly can to maximize the flavor. Now with all that being said, let’s get into the details of this recipe.

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Healthier Hashbrowns

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A few weeks ago, I woke up in the mood for some crispy hashbrowns but decided to try a new method since all my previous attempts have been a failure. In the past, I have attempted to make hashbrowns in the skillet but it usually results in using more oil than is healthy and not the right level of crispiness.  So instead, I decided to try it in the waffle maker because if you think about it both sides are being pressed together which helps to keep them together and to get a crisp outside and soft inside. I gave it a try and it was hands down the best decision I have ever made. The result was perfectly crispy hashbrowns that were still nice and fluffy on the inside. The best part about these hashbrowns is that it uses very little oil and also contains carrots which help to lower the starch content of the potatoes while also contributing vitamin C. These have very quickly become a household favorite and one of my go-to breakfasts.  The carrots help to add a slight sweetness as they become crispy and takes these hashbrowns to another level.  They can be made in advance and stored in the freezer and when you’re ready to eat them you can heat them on the skillet for a quick breakfast. Now that you know why these are a better choice, let’s get into what you will need to make them yourself.

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Chilaquiles

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One of my all-time favorite brunch items is chilaquiles because for one it’s an excuse to have tortilla chips for breakfast, and two they are so easy & almost effortless to make. Today I will FINALLY be sharing with you my recipe for the most delicious chilaquiles you have ever tasted. It’s taken me some time to get around to posting this but only because I was finishing up the last of my spring semester. I am happy to say that I completed the final 2 courses I needed in order to apply for my masters! It feels so good to finally say that as I honestly didn’t think I would survive this last semester. Now that I am done with school, for now, I will finally be able to get back to what I love and give Life at the Mesa my full attention. In my absence, I have been working on various recipes so as the weeks go on I have many new exciting recipes to share with you. Anyways, if you made it this far then I’m sure you just want the deets on these amazing chilaquiles so let’s go ahead and jump straight into the recipe.

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Double Chocolate Muffins

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Almost immediately after I posted the recipe for my orange-chia & chocolate chip muffins I started thinking about trying to make double chocolate muffins. A few days after I posted that recipe I got to work on developing this recipe and very rarely does it happen that after the first batch it’s perfect but this recipe was. The first time that I made it, it was an absolute hit from the get-go. I tried this recipe out on members of my study group for Ochem, my friend’s parents/sibling, and of course my loyal guinea pig Adrian who is the greatest partner a girl could ask for. After so much ranting and raving I decided to make another batch just to be sure of the quality and OH MY GOSH. This recipe is incredibly moist, filling, and decadent. If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you would know that there is always a catch with my recipes. I always strive to create healthier versions of classic recipes and this one, in particular, is completely free of refined sugar just as all my recipes on here typically are. As usual, I substituted refined sugar for wholesome and delicious dates. But this recipe is so special because I utilized dates from the community I grew up in. I grew up in a very small agricultural town called Brawley and in making your way to Brawley, there is an even smaller town called Westmorland. It is quite possibly the smallest town in California, but they are well known for their delicious dates. The particular shop I adore is called the Westmorland Date Shake and obviously based on the name, they are known for their amazing date shakes. However, I recently learned that they are now selling their delicious dates online that you can order which is why I am mentioning them for the first time in this blog. Their dates are superior BY FAR to those that can be found in the produce section of the grocery store and can now be conveniently ordered to your home! I mention this because I truly think the quality of their products made all the difference in this recipe. One of the greatest compliments I received for this recipe was “you don’t even need milk” and that is one of the greatest things a baker can be told. So if you’re not already intrigued to try this recipe then let’s discuss the nutritional value of it.

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Falafel + Yogurt Sauce Recipe

 

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Happy Sunday!

I hope you have all had a wonderful and refreshing weekend after what I’m sure has been a busy week for everyone. I myself have had quite the last two weeks so I made sure to spend some time pampering myself this weekend. One of my favorite things to help me decompress is to develop new recipes. When I’m in the kitchen it’s like all of my sources of stress disappear and I find myself to be calm, cool and collected.  This weekend I had a flood of recipe ideas that I can’t wait to share with you because you are going to LOVE them! For today, I will be sharing with you one of the recipes I finally perfected after much time and that is my beloved falafel recipe. The first time I had falafel was in a local Greek restaurant in the form of a pita sandwich. I loved how filling and fresh it was and couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while. I decided to give making them at home a shot with one major modification– I would avoid deep frying them in oil. One of the best parts about falafel is the crispiness of the falafel itself, but I figured I could make them just as delicious by simply pan-frying them instead. After making a few tweaks to the recipe I finally landed on a winner and today I get to share it with you. These falafels can be used to make lettuce wraps, pita sandwiches, salads, and so much more as they are extremely versatile. They provide a healthy serving of fiber and plant-based protein along with an abundance of vitamins and minerals. These falafels require very minimal heating which makes them great as we dive deeper into the warm weather season!  I especially like to make these at the beginning of the week to keep them in the fridge so I can quickly make a meal. The necessary ingredients are very minimal which also makes this recipe incredibly budget-friendly! Let’s get started by getting into what you will need to make this recipe.

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Orange-Chia & Dark Chocolate Muffins

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Happy Saturday!

I usually don’t post recipes on the weekends because typically they are my only days off from work and school but this week has already been so unlike my typical week I figured why not. I have spent the last week studying EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for all the exams I have coming my way. With that being said, I have been attempting to develop recipes MORE because for me cooking is a way to decompress and to relieve some tension. Nothing makes me happier than experimenting in the kitchen and boy was this recipe an experiment. The inspiration for this recipe started about 3 weeks ago when I was thinking about a cake my mom used to make because it was my grandma’s favorite. The cake is called Williamsburg cake and essentially it is a vanilla cake with orange zest, walnuts, and cream cheese frosting. It is absolutely incredible and one of my all time favorite cakes. Anyways, as I was thinking about it I thought what if I could make that into muffin form and of course without using refined sugar because that’s what I like to do. I love to healthify some of my favorite recipes and while I did that, I also made some tweaks and ended up coming up with a muffin recipe that isn’t exactly similar to my grandma’s favorite cake but they are SOOOO good.

After playing around with different variations I ultimately decided to swap out the walnuts for the more affordable chia seeds. Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, protein, and a variety of micronutrients (ex. magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, and manganese). On top of swapping out the nuts, I decided to switch out the all-purpose flour for some whole-wheat flour which adds in the B-vitamins which play a role in the health of our hair, skin, and nails. Last but not least, I decided to throw in some dark chocolate chips because who doesn’t love chocolate and more importantly because dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants which help to fight signs of aging. With all that said, I have to tell you that this recipe is the product of lots of trial and error and about 3 “bad” batches. I spent hours in the kitchen trying to get it right and after the 4th or 5th time I finally got it right. So often prepackaged muffins are loaded with refined sugar which is not horrible from time to time but I wanted to provide you with a recipe that you could have for breakfast, as a snack or even as a dessert that would contribute more than a spike in your blood sugar. The orange packs a punch while the chia seeds give a slight crunch and the dark chocolate is unbelievable in combination with both. All in all these muffins are incredibly moist and will blow your mind. Get ready for the best muffin recipe you’ll ever try, I know that’s a bold statement but that’s how good these muffins are.

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Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

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Growing up, I used to spend hours watching the Food Network. Some of my favorites were Giada De Laurentiis, Rachel Ray, and Ina Garten. I would sit there in front of the t.v. like a sponge absorbing everything they said and keeping their flavor combinations in mind. Very seldom would my mom ever follow their recipes but there is one I remember and still think about and that was Rachel Ray’s chicken tortilla soup. What stood out to my mom and myself about her chicken tortilla soup was the use of chorizo in the base of the soup. It looked so good and as we sat there salivating for the remainder of the show, we decided to give the recipe a shot. Let me just say that was the best chicken tortilla soup I had ever had. Fast forward to now and obviously, I realize that a vast majority of the recipes Rachel Ray and for that matter, any other Food Network chef made weren’t very healthy. Naturally, I decided to make it my mission to lighten it up a bit and so about a few months ago I had one of my good friends over and I made my version of the chicken tortilla soup and he absolutely loved it. Instead of utilizing regular pork chorizo which is high in saturated fat, and cholesterol I swapped it for soy chorizo. In addition, I also added in black beans for extra fiber and protein.

Although my version of the chicken tortilla soup was a huge hit, I got to thinking if I could make a vegetarian version that would be just as delicious. Now, if you wanted to still make this a chicken tortilla soup, all you need to do is swap out 1 cup of beans and 1 cup of quinoa for shredded chicken (total of 2 cups). After lots of tasting and tweaking, I found a winner and man is it satisfying. Today I will be sharing with you my recipe for my vegetarian tortilla soup.  In order to create a soup that would be hearty and feeling just like traditional chicken tortilla soup, I decided to use quinoa because as I have mentioned many times before, quinoa is one of the only plant-based options that is considered a complete source of protein. Quinoa is a grain that contains all nine of the essential amino acids we must obtain from our diet which is why I decided to use it in place of the chicken. Quinoa is also high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals so it’s a great way to boost this soup. In addition, I also added in some extra veggies for an extra serving of fiber.

This recipe is so easy and comes together in a total of 30 minutes as it is just a matter of dumping things into a pot and allowing them to simmer together. The longer it sits for, the better it tastes as it gives the flavors a chance to combine. Now let’s get into all that you will need to make this dish.

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Lentil Sloppy Joes

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With the semester in full swing, I’m on the hunt for recipes that are both nutritious and quick. After a long day at school, the last thing I want to do is spend hours in the kitchen. With that being said, today I will be sharing with you one of my favorite recipes that is packed with plant-based protein and comes together in under 30 minutes- lentil sloppy joes. Growing up, I remember my mom making sloppy joes during a busy weekday as it was quick, delicious, and sure to fill us up. When I was playing around with some dinner ideas, I immediately thought back to that recipe and decided to replicate it but to substitute lentils in place of the ground beef. As I’ve mentioned before, I personally enjoy eating mostly plant-based as I find that is what keeps me feeling the most energized and focused throughout the day. Additionally, lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and are loaded with fiber and iron as well. Lentils are one of those foods that I feel are completely underrated as they are loaded with nutrients but also make a great substitute in many recipes that call for ground beef. I always have lentils on hand and typically try to eat them in some form or another at least once a week. Before  I ramble on for too long I’ll cut it short and simply say that whether or not you are a vegetarian I am certain you will enjoy this recipe. My boyfriend who is incredibly picky couldn’t get enough of this and enjoyed the leftovers the following days which is huge because he is not a fan of leftovers. Now, let’s get into what you will need to make these delicious lentil sloppy joes.

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My Journey to Becoming an RD

my journey to becoming an RD

Hi guys!

I hope you are having a wonderful week! I mentioned about a week ago on my Instagram that I wanted to start being more personal on here and share more of my experiences to give you a better sense of the person behind the blog. So I figured I would talk about how and why I decided to pursue a career in the field of nutrition and dietetics. The road that has led me to the career path of a registered dietitian has not been linear, to say the least. Just like every other first-time college student, I was overwhelmed by all the potential career choices I had right in front of me and at the age of 18, I could not pinpoint what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I always knew that whatever career path I chose had to deal with helping people because that has always brought me such joy and fulfillment. However, with so many careers that do just that, I was lost as to where to begin. I knew I was fascinated with the human body & all of its complex processes as I had taken an Anatomy & Physiology class right before graduating from high school but I didn’t know how that was going to translate into a career. I knew I was not interested in becoming a nurse because for one I am super squeamish with needles/ blood and two I am way too emotional to be a nurse. When the time came to put in my college applications, I decided to go with the major of Biology since I figured that could translate to just about any career within the healthcare field.

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5 Minute Peanut Butter & Chocolate “Cookie Dough” Bites

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When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle one of the most important factors is preparation. Preparation is key to making sure you set yourself up for success as it can mean the difference between having healthy snacks at your disposal or buying on a whim snacks high in sugar or sodium. By keeping healthy snacks on hand, not only do you manage to save yourself some extra money, but you can also save yourself some extra calories by being sure of what is in your food. The recipe I will be sharing with you today is made up of simple ingredients most of which you probably already have on hand, and when put together yield a nutrient-rich snack that will be sure to hold you over in between meals. These 5-minute “cookie dough” bites are high in fiber, protein, and B vitamins which will help to keep you energized throughout the day.  You can add in nuts, dried fruit or really anything else to change up the flavors and to keep things interesting.  I encourage you to get creative in your combinations so that you don’t get bored and aren’t tempted to spend money on the overly processed choices at the store. Now let’s get into the recipe!

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Flatbread Two Ways

flatbread 2 ways

Superbowl Sunday is fast approaching and if you’re hosting the party, chances are you’re looking for ideas on what to feed your hungry guests. Well in combination with my panko crusted cauliflower wings,  I think these flatbreads will be the perfect appetizers to serve your guests. Not only are they vegetarian-friendly, but they are also packed with flavor so that even your picky eaters will never notice the difference. Flatbread has been a recipe that I have been playing around with for such a long time and after going back and forth between using whole-wheat flour & regular flour, I ultimately decided to stick with all-purpose because nothing else compares.

Now, as much as I talk about making healthy choices and their importance of contributing to a long and healthy life, I also want to be sure to share with you the importance of balance. I’m someone who does not restrict and if I feel like having a piece of cake or a cookie, I let myself have it. Why? Because when you allow yourself to have little indulgences here and there, it helps to prevent you from going overboard. So for that exact reason, I don’t feel bad about sharing with you this delicious recipe for flatbread that is not whole-grain but sure does make you feel good inside.

Just because I decided to stick with traditional white flour for this recipe, that does not mean that this recipe is not healthier than flatbread you would get at a restaurant. Instead of focusing on making a completely nutrient dense crust that would have probably tasted very similar to cardboard, I decided to deduct some extra calories by being more mindful of the amount of cheese and oil I used as well as by using my own marinara sauce. By making your own flatbread at home, you are able to control the amount of cheese and oil you put into it because it is your own version. I am so excited to share these with you as they were definitely a crowd pleaser! Now let’s talk ingredients.

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Gluten-Free Lemon Basil Pasta Salad

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In about 2 weeks, I will be heading back to school to complete the last few classes I need to apply for my master’s program. As time is of the essence, I’m on the hunt for recipes that are quick, easy, and nutrient dense. If you can relate, then I think you will appreciate this recipe because it takes under 30 minutes to make, is loaded with a variety of nutrients, and won’t break the bank. The recipe I will be sharing with you is my gluten-free lemon basil pasta salad.

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Marinara Sauce

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Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are all having a wonderful start to your weekend! Today I wanted to share with you a quick & easy marinara recipe that was a result of not having gone to the grocery store to pick up my usual premade sauce. About 2 weeks ago, I was in the mood for pasta but realized I had no sauce on hand. Usually I would have gone to the store but I have made it a goal of mine this year to avoid going to the store for just 1 item. As I rummaged through my pantry I found some fresh Roma tomatoes, garlic, tomato sauce &  few other spices and figured I would give it a shot at making my own sauce! That was hands down one of the best decisions I could have made because it was well worth it. This sauce tasted so much better than any store bought variety I had tried & was so cheap to make. You can use this sauce for pasta, pizza, meatball subs or really just about anything your heart desires! Now without further ado let’s get into the recipe!

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Stuffed Bell Peppers


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Hi guys!

Welcome back to Life at the Mesa, it sure feels good to be back with another recipe after taking some MUCH needed time off. After taking a break for a while I feel so inspired and have so many new recipes in mind as we move forward. One thing about me that should be pretty apparent by now is that I am a creature of habit. When I come up with a recipe, I like to figure out how many different ways I can make it work so that way I don’t have to spend too much time in the kitchen and so that I don’t get bored with my meals. Today’s recipe is no different as it will be featuring one of my all-time favorite recipes and that is my Mexican Quinoa. Quinoa is so incredibly diverse and also incredibly healthy for you. It is hands down my favorite grain because as I have mentioned previously, it is one of the few plant-based options that is considered a complete protein. For more info on protein click here to read more about the different types and sources of protein.

This recipe was created last week when I was in a hurry to make dinner but was craving something really hearty and satisfying. As I was looking through my pantry thinking of what I could make the first thing that came to mind was my Mexican quinoa as I also had the necessary pato sauce on hand. As much as I love the Mexican quinoa just as is, I wanted to make something different so then I came across some bell peppers in the fridge that I needed to use along with some zucchini and then this creation was born. These stuffed bell peppers are out of this world delicious and so incredibly easy to make. From start to finish it can be done in under 30 minutes and the toppings are endless. It’s a really great recipe to throw in any veggies you may have lying around that you need to use. Not only is it insanely good but of course it is loaded with a variety of nutrients but the most notable being protein, fiber, and vitamin C. Now, without further delay, let’s go ahead and jump into all the items you will need to make these delicious stuffed bell peppers!


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Lessons of 2018

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a safe and fun-filled New Years Eve and are excited for a brand new start this coming year. Today officially marks Life at the Mesa’s 1st birthday as I released my very first blog post a year ago! My first ever blog post was my tips for sticking to your new year’s resolutions which seemed to go over very well with everyone. However, this year I wanted to do something a little bit different and that is to reflect on all the lessons I learned this past year. I think reflecting on the past sets you up for a truly fresh start to the new year as you revisit your successes as well as your failures. The first step to moving forward is to reevaluate your progress while also reanalyzing what you could do differently to get you that much closer to the best version of yourself.

Find a Work-Life Balance

2018 was a crazy yet exciting year as it was filled with many personal challenges as I struggled to maintain a healthy work/life balance. For much of this year, I struggled to give myself the time to unwind and enjoy the social aspects of my life.  There were days in which all I would do is spend 8+ hours at school and then 4-5 hours studying all while trying to work and run the blog. I would run from school to work to the computer to try to crank out content but as you can imagine, being so all over the place directly impacted my content on the blog. It took a while for me to realize that I needed to slow down and truthfully it wasn’t until November that I finally gave myself a break. November was a month filled with family gatherings which forced me to take a step back and reevaluate the course of my life. As much as I love to work on projects and give 150% in everything I do, I realized that I was lacking the simple things in life like my family and friends which was ultimately making me feel miserable. I found that the blog that used to bring me joy and happiness was making me feel awful because I began treating it like a job instead of an outlet to share my knowledge. So I decided from that day forward to take some time for myself and to allow myself to slow down. Now that it is the new year, I have to say that that was the best decision I could have made because now more than ever I feel inspired and driven to get back to doing what I love the most. I love connecting and sharing recipes with all of you but I always said I would never crank out content just for the sake of posting something.  My content is a reflection of who I am and I would never want to put anything I didn’t believe 110% in. With all that being said, I am ready now more than ever to give my all while also respecting my personal boundaries so that I can get the most out of my life.

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Authentic Chicken Enchiladas

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Hi guys!

I am so excited to be bringing you another recipe after what feels like forever! The last month or so has been so incredibly chaotic as I get that much closer to wrapping up the prerequisites necessary to apply for my Master’s program. As much as I have been itching to create content for the blog, first and foremost I am attempting to finish up my schooling so that sooner rather than later, I will be an accredited RDN able to help you all in much greater detail with all your health and wellness needs. Also, let me say that because I take so much pride in the content that I put out, I will only ever share a recipe with you that I 1000% standby. I refuse to share a mediocre recipe just for the sake of posting because this blog was started with the purpose of showing you how fulfilling, satisfying, and delicious a healthy lifestyle can be.

With that being said, today I have a very exciting recipe for you as I have been attempting to perfect this one for quite some time. Today I will be sharing with you my authentic chicken enchiladas made of course with homemade enchilada sauce. A few weeks back as I was craving my mom’s homemade enchiladas I gave her a call to ask her for the recipe.  As she listed the ingredients, I was surprised that she used flour and lard. For those of you who do not know what lard is,  it is solidified pork fat that is high in saturated fat, If you want to know more about the different types of fat, check out my Facts on Fat post here.  After going over the ingredients, I knew exactly why her sauce was so addictive. Lard is very calorie dense which sends signals to our brain that makes us want to eat more. So I decided I would play with the recipe a bit to make something with some healthier ingredients. Mom, if you’re reading this please know I love your enchiladas, but we are definitely going to be swapping my enchilada sauce out for yours!

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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

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September has officially arrived and I am so excited because fall is my favorite time of year! Even though here in southern California we don’t get much of a fall, I still look forward to having weather below 100°.  With cooler weather comes warm drinks and hearty, comforting meals and today I’ll be kicking off our fall-inspired meals with my lentil shepherds pie. Traditional shepherd’s pie is made using ground beef, a variation of veggies, and topped with creamy mashed potatoes. This recipe is only different in a few of the ingredients but all the flavors come together to produce an incredibly satisfying & hearty meal. It sounds so much fancier than it actually is because all of the ingredients are very humble and easily accessible to everyone.

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Watermelon & Lime Water

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A few weeks ago when I was doing my grocery shopping, I came across a product in the juice section that caught my attention. The product is called Watermelon Wtr and it is a cold-pressed of watermelon juice that contains the natural electrolyte potassium which plays an important role in fluid balance.  I was intrigued to buy it but then I looked at the price and quickly walked away. At my local Ralph’s a 12 oz bottle cost about $3.50 which is pretty steep for such a small amount. After scanning the nutrition label and researching the product, I realized that with a few tools some watermelon, and some extra flavors you could essentially get the same product at home for a MUCH more affordable price. Ever since I first started playing around this recipe, I have been obsessed with it and have made it almost every single week. It is so refreshing and the perfect alternative to store-bought juices and sodas as it completely free of added sugar. The key to this drink coming out so delicious is all about choosing your watermelon.  I found a great article to help you pick the sweetest watermelon which will be linked here. The riper your watermelon is, the better your watermelon water will taste so be sure to take your time choosing the perfect watermelon.  Before I get into the few ingredients you will need, let’s first talk about what makes watermelon such an awesome fruit!

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My Thoughts on the Instant Pot & Oil-Free “Refried” Beans

Back in May, I received an Instant Pot Ultra for my birthday and was so excited to work with it! I posted a picture on my Instagram story when I first got it alluding to future recipes using it but then I didn’t talk about it. I decided to avoid posting recipes utilizing it on the blog because I didn’t want to exclude people who do not have an Instant Pot. While I realize that the Instant Pot is a convenience gadget,  I wanted to mention it now because after using it consistently for the past 3 months I can say it has helped me stay on track of making healthy meals at home. As always, I want to be as transparent as possible on this blog to talk about things relating to health, wellness, and living a fulfilling life and today that means talking about a product that has made my life so much easier. Instead of going through every single thing I have made using the Instant Pot thus far, I’ll highlight the pros and cons from my experience so you can decide if it would be a helpful product to keep you on track of your health and/or fitness goals.

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Sweet & Savory Granola Bars

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Back to school season has officially arrived and I myself am getting ready to go back in the next 2 weeks. As I mentally prepare to take on organic chemistry and microbiology this coming fall, I have also been preparing some new snack and meal ideas that are convenient and delicious to grab and go.  As much as I enjoy cooking, when school time comes around, I find myself being so exhausted that the last thing I want to do is spend any extra time in the kitchen. Between work, school, and just life, in general, I try to make it as easy and painless as possible to create healthy options that can be put together in no time at all.  I find that preparing in advance helps me to prevent from spending more money than I usually would and make healthier choices because let’s be honest, on-campus options are not typically what I would call healthy.

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Chickpea Salad

 

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I think it’s safe to say, we all are on the hunt for quick, easy, and healthy recipes that are great to make in advance and keep on hand whenever. All of us lead busy lives so I get that you really don’t want to spend that much time putting anything together. That’s exactly why you need to make this chickpea salad sandwich a part of your usual menu. It started out as an attempt to make vegetarian “fish cakes” but as I tasted the mixture I found myself wanting to eat it then and there as is. That’s when I figured it would be perfect to use anywhere you would normally use tuna salad. Add it to a green salad, a wrap, or as a simple sandwich and I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised just how good chickpeas can be. The ingredients are simple and I’m sure you have about 95% of the ingredients in your kitchen as we speak. It takes almost no time to prepare and is even better the next day once the flavors have had a chance to marinate together. Before we get into the specifics of the recipe, let’s talk a little bit about the star of the show, chickpeas.

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Dark Chocolate Cups

 

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Part of my creative process in developing recipes is thinking of certain foods that I know people love the taste of and then modifying them to result in an equally delicious but much more nutritious treat than the more traditional version. If you can guess, today’s recipe was inspired by none other than the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Reese’s cups are one of those nostalgic childhood treats because I remember them being one of my favorite candies as a kid. I think most people can agree that peanut butter and chocolate are a match made in heaven which is why this recipe will satisfy that craving because we kept both but just made some small modifications.

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Mexican Rice Inspired Quinoa

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Growing up in a Hispanic household Mexican rice was always a staple side dish for just about every meal. My mom would serve it alongside enchiladas, tacos, sopes or really just about anything. There’s no doubt that it’s a tasty dish, but the thing about traditional Mexican rice is that it requires frying in oil. Although the browning of the rice helps to develop a delicious dish, it is not the most healthy method. While I definitely enjoy it from time to time,  I find myself turning to this recipe that I will be sharing with you today more often. I wholeheartedly believe that eating healthy should taste just as amazing as it makes you feel, so I attempt to recreate some of my favorite foods using healthier more nutrient-rich foods. Today I will be sharing with you one of my favorite ways to enjoy quinoa that mimics the flavors in Mexican rice.

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Quick & Easy Smoothie Bowls

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Hi guys!

As you requested, I put together a couple of smoothie bowl ideas and today I wanted to share them with you. Just in the nick of time for summer, these smoothie bowls are refreshing and sure to keep you cool even on the hottest of days. Not only do they taste amazing, but they are also jam-packed with nutrients that make you feel amazing.   Typical smoothie bowls are usually loaded with added sugar but these are not. Just like in my last recipe, all the sources of sugar in these bowls are naturally derived from the fruits themselves, and a very small amount of Medjool dates. As I’ve previously mentioned, an excessive amount of sugar is never good for you as it will give you a burst of energy and leave you crashing later on. So for that reason, we’ve made our own that includes healthy fats, plenty of antioxidants, and some protein to help fill you up.  Read More


Healthy Banana Bars

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School is finally over and I cannot tell you how relieved I am. After a difficult semester, the first thing I wanted to do was get back into the kitchen to test out some new recipes! This is one of the many to come and let me just tell you, I cannot stop eating it. Guys, these banana bars are so addictive and have been approved by some of my toughest critics (thanks Adriana & Dan). Not only are these banana bars delicious but they are also surprisingly nutritious! Free of refined sugar and loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, this bar will make you think twice about healthy eating.

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My Go-To Groceries

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If you’ve recently decided to change the way you fuel your body then I’m sure  you’ve already asked yourself, “what should I buy when I go to the grocery store?” The truth is, your first trip to the grocery store following your decision to change your lifestyle may be a little bit intimidating because of the abundance of product choices. There are hundreds of thousands of products that use the word “natural” which may confuse you as to whether or not it is a good choice. The true nutritional value of any product can be discovered by familiarizing yourself with the nutrition label (to learn more about how to read the nutrition label, click here).

Now, for those of you who are still a little bit stumped as to what you should add to your grocery list, don’t worry because I’ve got you covered. Today I’ll be sharing with you an example of what a typical trip to the grocery store looks like for me. I’ll share some of my favorite things to keep in stock and explain why they are a great choice to help keep you full and satisfied.


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Self-Care Practices

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Hi guys!

So in my last post, I decided to get really personal and share my experience with stress. I wanted to share with you, not just the things I know about health but also my own struggles that have impacted my health. Today I want to share with you some of the things I do to take care of myself to avoid feeling defeated when presented with a stressful situation.  The best way to manage stress is to prevent it from happening altogether, and the best way to prevent feeling overwhelmed is to take care of yourself by listening to your body. Being able to listen to your body is one of the most important life skills to master because it can make the biggest difference in how you react when presented with a stressful situation. The feeling of being overwhelmed that is often associated with stress is a result of feeling like we don’t have control over the situation. However, the one thing to keep in mind that will help prevent stress from setting in is to take charge of the things that you do have control over such as your self-care habits. By incorporating some of these self-care practices into your life, you can help to keep your physical, mental, and emotional health in check to keep your life as stress-free as possible.

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My Experience with Stress

One of the things that I want Life at the Mesa to offer is a completely transparent outlook on the things that matter to you and your health. From topics on nutrition to those that pertain to mental health, I want to talk about the reality of what can influence your health, happiness, and well-being. With that being said, today I wanted to share my experience with stress as a college student and some insight on the things I have learned. Stress can be defined as a physiological and psychological response to a perceived threat. The key word to pay close attention to is the word perceived. Perception is a key factor to stress because each of us has a different outlook on life and the things that make us stress out.  For that reason, I wanted to share with you a recent picture I found on my laptop that embodies my perception of stress before I understood how to cope with it.

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How to Make a Healthy Choice

 

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Understanding how to read a nutrition label is key to understanding how to make an informed decision about what is a healthy product and what is not. This post will be expanding on my previous post, Decoding the Nutrition Label.  Today, I’ll be breaking down what makes a product healthy or unhealthy.

A healthy choice should be one that has protective factors against chronic diseases like vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whereas a not-so-healthy choice will include a greater amount of saturated and trans fats along with added sugars, and salt.

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Decoding the Nutrition Label

 

Within the realm of nutrition and health, there are so many products that claim to be “healthy”. How can you really tell whether or not a product is actually good for you? The answer lies on the box of the product in the format of what is known as the nutrition label. Every item that is sold for consumer consumption is required by law to highlight the nutrient breakdown. In other words, the nutrition label breaks down in detail the amounts of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) within the product. The best way to take charge of your health is to familiarize yourself with reading and understanding the nutrition label. With that being said,  today I’ll be breaking down the information you need to be aware of and what exactly each area means.

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Recipe: Green Smoothies

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One of the most popular “health” foods are green smoothies. While they may be convenient and quick when on the go, not all green smoothies are all that healthy. In fact, many green smoothies are loaded with sugar to compensate for the added vegetables. Although fruits are a healthy choice, they are naturally high in sugar so just like any other sweets, they should be eaten in moderation. Fruits are usually better as a snack in between meals when paired along with a source of fat and protein. When too much fruit is added to a smoothie, it can spike blood sugar levels which will ultimately make you crash. For that reason, I have created two smoothie options that contain both protein and fat to help counter-balance that blood sugar spike. Whether you like fruity smoothies or creamy smoothies, I’m sure that you will find one of two of these recipes will help to satisfy your craving. Both of these recipes contain spinach which is high in vitamins A, C, K, and the mineral folate. These smoothies are very filling and are best suited for a meal replacement.


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Recipe: Panko Crusted Cauliflower

 

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Hi guys! So I know it’s been awhile since my last blog post, but thank you for being so patient with me. Today I’ll be sharing with you one of my pride and joys and that is my recipe for panko-crusted cauliflower. Growing up, my mom used to make panko crusted chicken and I was obsessed. But as I got older and became more health conscientious I realized her pan-frying method maybe wasn’t the healthiest approach. But because I loved my mom’s recipe so much I was determined to find a healthier alternative that was as equally delicious. That’s when this recipe was born. This is one of my all-time favorite ways to prepare cauliflower because it is filing and so satisfying. The crunch from the panko makes all the difference and it is truly one to try out. These are amazing tossed in just about any sauce you can imagine and are a lighter option for chicken strips and/or nuggets. The flavor combinations are endless and you can use them to top a salad, add to a wrap, or just eat as finger food. Before we get into the recipe, here’s a little background on the star of the show-cauliflower.

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Health Conscientious or Health Obsessive

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Up to this point, I have given insight into the various source of macronutrients, tips on eating healthy, and provided a recipe idea to help inspire you to live a healthier lifestyle. However, before I go any further I wanted to talk about the fine line that exists between being health conscientious and health obsessive. Someone who is health conscientious realizes the true value of their health and understands that there are certain things their body needs to flourish. With that being said, people who are health conscientious also understand the importance of balance and self-love. Whereas someone who is health obsessive does not and instead demonstrates destructive behaviors all for the sake of perfection. The key to living a healthy lifestyle is not about perfection but rather intention. Every single day you are presented with the opportunity to make choices that will either push you toward or away from your goals but it is all up to you. Down below I have included some behaviors that will help you to determine where you lie on the spectrum of health conscientious or health obsessive.

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Simple Snack Solutions

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Snacking in between meals is extremely important to help maintain a steady flow of energy and to help boost your metabolism. If our blood sugar levels drop too low, we may feel dizzy, nauseous, or light-headed which in turn will cause our bodies to slow our metabolism.  By having “smart snacks” on hand, you can help to boost your dwindling energy levels throughout the day. “Smart snacks” are those that combine a serving of carbs, fat, and protein to help steady our energy levels. Carbohydrates like fruits, veggies, and granola provide the body with a burst of energy. Meanwhile, protein and fat sources like eggs, peanut butter, and hummus help to curb and keep hunger at bay. Down below I’ve included further detail on why these snack options are worth trying out.

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Eating Healthy on a Budget

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If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the phrase “eating healthy is expensive” I would have been a millionaire by now.  But I’m not, I’m a post-grad student trying to show you that eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. The truth is, the things that are costing you the most money are more than likely the items that are most unhealthy for you like chips, cookies, or frozen dinners. Down below I’ve included my top 6 tips for eating healthy on a budget. These are things I do every time I go grocery shopping that have helped me to lower my food expenses and waste.

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Recipe: Pesto Ricotta Stuffed Shells

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A few weeks back I created a poll on my Instagram (@lifeatthemesa) asking you guys if you would be interested in my tofu ricotta stuffed shells and the vast majority of you said yes and it is finally here! It took some extra time but after making a few additional tweaks this recipe is perfection. I once made this for my mom without telling her what the shells were stuffed with and she didn’t even detect it. For those of you who voted no for the recipe, I highly encourage you to abandon the assumption of tofu being bland and give this recipe a go. I promise you will not be disappointed.  Now, without further ado here is my pesto tofu ricotta recipe.

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Power in Protein

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Since I first began my journey to a career in the field of nutrition, many of the questions I’ve been asked revolve around protein.  Protein is the most sought after macronutrient by athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness fanatics because of its role in building muscle. However, the role of protein goes far beyond building muscle and extends into just about every square inch of our body.  Protein plays a role in:

  • Formation of muscles, bones, blood, skin, and cartilage
  • Production of hormones, vitamins, and enzymes
  • Building and repairing tissues

Unlike carbs and fat, protein is not stored in the body for later use and must be supplied through your diet on a daily basis.  While most people get more than enough protein in their diet, it’s not just about the quantity but more importantly the quality.

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The Facts on Fat

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Importance of Fat

Fat- the macronutrient we all love to hate. If you find yourself nitpicking at any flap of extra skin you should know that fat serves an important function in the body and each of us need it. Fat makes up the inner lining of our skin and hair and helps the body to absorb vitamins A, K, E, and D. In addition, fat helps to provide protection to our organs and leaves us feeling full and satisfied when included in a meal. Fat can come from both plants and animals but if you can guess, some are more beneficial than others. Although all sources of fat contribute the same 9 calories per gram, the unsaturated types of fat have been linked to certain health benefits, while saturated and trans fats have been linked to heart disease. When choosing fats, save yourself the heartache and opt for the unsaturated types in moderation. Down below are the sources of fats to limit and fats to include.

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Let’s Talk Carbs

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To kick-start our discussion on all things relating to diet and health, I think it’s important to start with the macronutrient that has somehow earned itself a negative reputation carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have been given a bad name for their attribution to weight gain and metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.  However, labeling an entire food group as “bad” or “harmful” is unfair because not all carbs are made the same.  Before you jump on the no/ low carb diet bandwagon it is important to understand the difference between the various sources of carbs and what the right choice can do for your body. Without further ado, let’s talk carbs.

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Revisiting Your New Year’s Resolutions

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We are officially two weeks into January which means those of us who made new year’s resolutions are two weeks closer to achieving our goals.  However, for many this is the point in which the momentum to change may have faded.  If you have abandoned your new year’s resolutions or just feel less motivated, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Many of the goals we set for ourselves in the new year tend to be far-fetched and unrealistic.  To be more specific I mean that maybe your goal to eat seven vegetables a day and drink eight glasses of water was too drastic of a jump from the lifestyle you led last year. In order to make a lasting change especially in terms of your lifestyle, it is important to make your goals specificrealistic, measurable, and achievable.  With that being said below I have listed my 10 tips to help you achieve your new year’s resolutions. Best of luck ♥

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