Fudgy Vegan Chocolate Bites

We all need a little treat now and then...sometimes its more now than it is then. I am a chocolate girl and need a little yummy treat every day, but I don't want the processed sugar, dairy, or flour to sabotage my results. These little bite sized morsels are packed with a lot of nutrients and a lot of chocolaty flavor, plus they are gluten free, grain free and Vegan! They are also incredibly easy to make!

3/4 cup Organic Pitted Dates (preferably raw)
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/16 tsp Salt
2 Tb Cocoa Powder (preferably raw)
2 Tb Coconut Flour or Coconut Flakes
1/2 Cup Organic Raw Cashews or other nuts
2 Tb Vegan Chocolate Chips (optional)

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until well combined. Once combined I put the mixture into a Ziploc bag to avoid a mess and mash it together. Form into balls as shown in the picture or form into bars for a healthier protein bar.

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Sedentary vs. Active Lifestyles

 Think about the way people lived many years ago. If you wanted to talk to your friend you couldn't text your friend on your smart phone, instead you had to get up and walk to your corded phone and have a conversation or even walk to their home for a visit. Modern day conveniences such as washers and dryers, dishwashers, computers and of course cars have all contributed to an inactive lifestyle. So what's the difference of a sedentary and an active lifestyle? How much activity does it take to become a person who is considered "active" and what are some changes that you can make today to increase your activity and improve your health? 

A little over a month ago, I was a guest speaker on the radio show Vibrant Living where we discussed this very topic. Click here to listen to the podcast.

What is a sedentary lifestyle? Well it is characterized by a predominantly inactive way of life. The phrase "sitting disease" is another term for sedentary lifestyle. Consider how much you sit all day long: in your car, at your desk, eating meals, watching t.v. etc. Currently more that 60% of Americans are not regularly active and 25% are not active at all.

How much activity do we really need?

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that adults over 18 years old need 20 minutes of moderate to brisk aerobic exercise Daily and 2-3 days of strength training activities. However, the negative effects of prolonged sitting are not significantly reversed by exercise. Research is showing that physical activity and sedentary behavior act independently through different mechanisms. This explains why the damage of prolonged sitting is not alleviated by 30 minutes of daily exercise alone. Did you catch that? You can still workout, but sit a large part of the day and still reap the negative affects of a sedentary lifestyle. What I find so discouraging about this is that so many clients of mine sit in traffic to work, then sit at their desks, sit for lunch, sit some more at their desk, sit on the commute home, sit to eat dinner, then they sit in front of the t.v., and finally they lay down to go to sleep and repeat. Often they work out 2-3 times per week for about an hour, but the damages of sitting down all day or living a sedentary life, are not reversed by their workouts. 

So what are the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle?

1. Poor posture- Sitting too long causes muscle imbalances throughout the entire body. Poor posture leads to headaches, fatigue, and joint pain just to name a few.

2. Dramatically increases your risk of developing many preventable diseases- A sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure, anxiety, osteoporosis and many other health problems

3. Weight gain- Obesity is another result of an inactive lifestyle.

How do you switch from a sedentary lifestyle to one that is active, without doing a whole career overhaul?

1. Get moving- Do not sit for more than an hour at a time. If you work at a desk, purpose to get up every hour and move, even if it is just a little bit. We've all heard this before-take the stairs instead of the elevator, park far away from the store and take more steps, etc. Whatever you choose to do, make movement a large part of your day.

2. Buddy up- Studies show working out with a friend is good for your fitness and health. It keeps you accountable to your workout, improves your quality of life, and it can boost your athletic performance.

3. Fitness tools for motivation- Pedometers, heart rate monitors, and fitness apps for your smart phone all help to get you more active. Pedometers measure each step you take. It is recommended that we take 10,000 steps a day, however the average American takes 3,000-5,000 steps per day, which is not enough to maintain good health. Having a pedometer helps you become aware of how many steps you are taking each day. Heart rate monitors are highly motivating, by staying in the right heart rate zones not only improves your fitness and keeps you on track with your fitness goals, it's also motivating. To find out how to calculate your target heart rate click here. There are countless fitness apps to help you plan your next workout, the sky is the limit. I personally use Codyapp. It is an app you can access countless workouts wherever you are, however you do have to pay for the workouts, but the instructors are highly qualified. It's the workout DVD for the modern age. 

The most important take away message is to get moving and have fun! You will not regret making the change!

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Coconut Banana Vanilla Oatmeal

Man oh man, do I love a good oatmeal.  This is one of my all time favorite oatmeal recipes.  I make a big batch of this weekly and the whole family will eat this throughout the week.

Coconut Banana Vanilla Oatmeal

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla paste
  • cinnamon (as much or as little as you'd like)
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 2 cups Quaker oatmeal
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
In a sauce pan, heat up coconut oil over medium heat.  Add your bananas, vanilla paste, cinnamon, and agave.  Saute until the bananas begin to breakdown and until everything caramelizes...about 2-3 minutes.  Stir the whole time and then remove from heat.

Cook your oatmeal:  Boil 2 cups milk, and 1 1/2 cups water in a pan. Stir in 2 cups of oats.  Cook on med-low heat for 5 mins.

Combine the cooked oatmeal, with the sauteed banana mixture.  Add in your chia seeds and stir mixture.  Eat right away or let it cool, refrigerate and enjoy it later.  

*I usually scoop desired servings into mason jars and put them in the refrigerator.  That way my hubby has a quick breakfast that he can grab and go.  Sometimes we eat this cold straight out of the jar, and other times we will heat it and then eat it. 

xo Ashley


Instagram Fitness Challenges

I love doing Instagram fitness challenges and  I think you should do one too. Here are 5 reasons why.

1.     Accountability- Once I commit on my Instagram that I am going to do a fitness challenge, I feel like I am voicing it to the world and I don’t want to skip a day. Even on days when I am exhausted or have had a very full day, I still do a little bit of activity and get my Yoga picture in for the day. Pretty soon 15-20 minutes of Yoga practice happens that would have otherwise been skipped.

2.    Variety- Let’s face it workouts can get pretty monotonous at times or you get stuck in a rut. Fitness challenges can give you new exercises and help get you past a plateau. Yoga challenges are a great way to expand your Yoga practice and get you past doing the typical Sun Salutation over an over again.

3.     Challenging- There are many exercises that look very difficult or even impossible to me.  Because I personally do Yoga challenges, some of the poses require a significant amount of strength and flexibility. Attempting the pose or a modification of the pose challenges you both mentally and physically. Doing the poses each day also challenges your body. Every day you get a little bit stronger, a little bit more flexible, and a little more brave.

4.    Marked Progress- Sometimes we work hard and don’t notice results because we are only looking for weight loss or some other number but what about changes that you can see in pictures? When I do Yoga day in and day out, I don't think that my poses are getting any better, but when I have a picture to compare it to, I can see how much progress I have made in a certain posture.

5. It's Inspiring- It's a lot more fun to workout and be able to get creative at the same time. If you are doing a challenge and posting pictures, it's fun to find different backgrounds or fun places to take your fitness challenge to. It also inspires workouts when you would otherwise just kick back and not do much activity. Even though I am very active, I find myself inspired to want to get even better at what I like to do because I have a challenge I am working towards.



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Taco Ground Turkey

This healthy recipe is a favorite in our house.  I make this weekly and we all snack on it throughout the week.  It's so easy and so good!

  • Taco Ground Turkey
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes or fresh tomatoes chopped
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning
  • 1/2-1 onion chopped
  • 1 serrano chile chopped

Brown and cook your ground turkey in a pan sprayed with a little cooking oil.  Once meat is cooked add in the tomatoes, taco seasoning, onion and chile.  Cook another 5 minutes on low then enjoy.

You can serve this with a sweet potato, and black beans, make it into a burrito, or eat it by itself with chopped romaine and a fresh squeeze of lime juice.

The picture above shows how I served it as our dinner.  One baked sweet potato, a few tablespoons of the taco ground turkey, black beans and a teaspoon of Fage 2% Greek Yogurt.  This is "clean eating" at it's best...Yum!


Pincha Mayurasana

One of the draws to Yoga is that it releases the inner child in you. Hand stands, back bends, and all sorts of fun gymnastic-like movements. What I love about Yoga is that it is a great way to increase flexibility and strength all the while you are working on using your breath and your mind to accomplish some pretty challenging poses. One of the poses that is so fun to try out is the Pincha Mayurasana.

Here is a brief description of how to perform this challenging, but fun Yoga pose:

1. From downward dog, bring your forearms and elbows down to the mat. Draw your core muscles in to support your spine. Spread your fingers wide, press the base of your index finger into the mat and begin to breath deeply. (Don't hold your breath!) In the beginning you can practice near a wall until you build up the core strength to do it on your own.

2. Slowly walk your feet up toward your face, until your shoulders and hips are stacked over your elbows. Push your chest toward your legs to create 90 degree angles at your elbows.

3. Lift one leg up to the sky and activate your glute muscles to help you control your movement. Try to create a straight line from your elbows all the way to the toes of your top foot.

4. Rise onto the tip toes of your bottom foot and begin to shift your weight off of your bottom foot and onto your forearms.

5. Once you have shifted all of your weight onto your forearms, you may bring the bottom leg up to meet the top, finding balance in classic Pincha Mayurasana. Stay for 5-10 breaths.

6 . Feel your body reaching up through the toes and keeping a strong base in your forearms and shoulders. You can also split the legs. Even with split legs, feel your body reaching up, rather than sinking down. Keep the 90 degree bend in your elbows.

7. Be sure to breathe and have fun. Don't rush, use control and slowly return to your mat.




HIIT- Tabata

Happy Monday to all of our followers! As summer approaches and it becomes more and more difficult to hide our bodies under a plethora of clothing, we are reminded that we need to kick our workouts into high gear. One of my favorite ways to do that is with HIIT or high intensity interval training. There are many different types of intervals that you can do. Mixing it up is a great way to get your desired results and keep you from plateauing. One method of interval training is the Tabata method.

Tabata originated from a guy named Izumi Tabata a Japanese researcher and physician. He came up with a protocol to increase the speed of athletes. The basic model is broken down into 8-20 second high-intensity intervals with 10 seconds rest,  for a total time of 4 minutes.

The key to this type of training to be effective, is based on how hard you are pushing yourself during the 20 second interval. You want to give your all-out best effort, recover 10 seconds, and then repeat. This type of training is not ideal for beginners, however if you have been doing cardio training on a regular basis and are looking to burn fat and build lean muscle then you're ready to give it a try. For those who are new to interval training, start with fewer intervals and work up to completing 8. Remember to always consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Once you have become proficient at doing 8 intervals work up to 2 or 3 sets of 8 intervals with 2-5 minutes rest in between each set. Be sure to warm-up 5-10 minutes prior to your workout and bring your heart rate down after you finish your last interval.

Not only will you see amazing results from adding interval training into your routine, you will save a lot of time. This workout is intense but it's also very quick.

When you think of intervals you think of cardio equipment and that is often the way I do it. Doing intervals on a spin bike really helps you achieve the speed necessary to get your heart rate up, while not compromising your joints. The spin bike is my favorite way to interval train, as I get most of my weight training from Yoga and Pilates. Below is an example of how you could incorporate Tabata training into your weight training workouts. The combinations of exercises you do for each interval can vary from chest presses, stairs, leg presses, etc. The sky is the limit.

20 seconds of push-ups
10 seconds rest
20 seconds plyometric squats
10 seconds rest
20 seconds pull ups
10 seconds rest
20 seconds plyometric lunges
10 seconds rest

Repeat circuit 

Be safe and most importantly have fun!



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