Striving for a Healthier Lifestyle? Surround Yourself with Healthy People

It’s been said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. While we often think about healthy living as largely a sum of eating habits and activity level, sometimes we tend to forget about the importance of mental health and surrounding ourselves with healthy, positive people to help us lead healthier lives ourselves.

When I was a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach, we talked a lot about what we refer to as ‘primary food’ – the things that feed you that aren’t food, like relationships, career, physical activity and a social life. Relationships are such a big aspect of health, and they have the power to bring us up or hold us down throughout our lives in such significant ways.

I got to thinking about this topic last weekend, when my husband was doing a Ragnar Relay race. The basic gist is that it’s an overnight event where teams of 12 run 200 miles in a relay race. I woke up on Saturday while he was doing the race, and totally did not feel like doing the yoga session I had planned on starting my day with. But then I thought about Adam. He has been eating, sleeping, and breathing schoolwork for the MBA program he’s in when he’s not working full-time, the man rides his bike to and from work in order to squeeze daily workouts in, and he was running 20 miles in a race in the midst of it all.

And so, I got up, put my yoga clothes on, and headed to my mat for a practice. I told myself to just do it, and while I wasn’t totally feeling it, I’m glad that I pushed myself to practice.

He was my motivation to get up and get going that morning, and I think that we push each other in life in general – whether it’s to workout when we don’t feel like it, encourage each other to better ourselves through education and experiences, or to work hard and take risks in our careers. We both are motivated people, and I think that we rub off on each other in positive ways.

Over the years, I’ve thought a lot about who I spend my time with and how they may be elevating my life or bringing it down. I truly believe in the power of the attitudes and energy of others rubbing off on me. Putting that idea into action, sometimes it’s meant having to take a step back from relationships if they aren’t serving me in a healthy way. One of my favorite quotes is, “Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”

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PB & J Banana Muffins {vegan + gf}

As with most food bloggers & writers, I love to bake and cook for loved ones. Whenever we have guests in town, I enjoy feeding them well. A lot of the time when I meet up with girlfriends, I’ll bring them some of my latest kitchen creations to try. I show my love for people by making them nutritious, delicious food.

When I stay at my parents’ house in Jersey, it’s fun to make snacks, dinners, and desserts for everyone to enjoy. A few weeks ago when I was there, I was a little off of my Chef Nicole game because I was under the weather, but I still whipped up some yummy recipes for them.

One night I made creamy spring veggie & asparagus puree soup for dinner, because I knew my mom would dig it (She did!).

I also made my most recently published Shape recipe, blueberry banana Greek yogurt muffins.

Continuing with the blueberry theme, I also made bluebery oatmeal chia bars one morning – except when I took the baking dish out of the oven, I mistakenly placed it on a burner that was on low heat….and then left it there for hours. I was in the kitchen the whole time and didn’t even smell the bars and pan burning because my sinuses were all congested! It actually worked out well because my dad loves burnt things. They wound up being super dry, but he was a fan of them anyways…so it was only half a kitchen fail!

Another muffin recipe that I decided to make were peanut butter & jelly banana muffins. I first shared the recipe on here years ago when I was a newbie blogger, and I hadn’t made them in quite awhile. My dad loves PB & J (and so do I!) so I thought he’d like these. I always like having muffins, bars, or energy bites around as a healthy snack, and we all snacked on these muffins throughout the week.

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6 Bridal Shower Party Ideas

My recent trip to the east coast included more on the agenda than just visiting family – it was also to throw a bridal shower for my little brother’s bride-to-be! I’m a bridesmaid in their wedding next month, and I flew in to help celebrate with a bridal shower surprise.

L to R: My sister-in-law Jamie, my sister Kelsey, me, my soon to be sister-in-law Desiree, and my mom

I had fun planning out all of the decorations and little details that went along with their springtime wedding pastel color theme, and today I thought I’d share a few of the fun party ideas that I implemented with the other bridesmaids and my mom.


1.) Photo Balloons.
I absolutely love doing photo projects, and I know that my soon to be sister-in-law Dez also digs them too… so making photo balloons was one of my first ideas for the party. The basic gist is to attach a photo to each balloon and have memories floating around the party all day for guests to check out.

My brother Danny and Dez have a 3-year old boy, so it was fun going back a couple years and including photos from when he was just a baby. I also included shots from when the two of them had just started dating in college, along with some of their first photos as a family.

To do this, I ordered 35 photos, hole punched each one, then knotted the balloon strings around each photo. A few of the balloons started sagging, so I had to cut some of the photos to make them a tad bit lighter to fly free. I decided to go with a mix of gold + white balloons, which wound up looking really pretty.

I also ordered a couple of weighted balloon bouquets to place around the room, including a champagne balloon that we put near the alcohol and an engagement room balloon bouquet that we placed near the present table.

2.) Mimosa Bar. I had seen mimosa bars online of other bridal showers, and was happy to finally have the chance to do my own mimosa bar!

For the mimosa bar, you need a.) champagne, b.) different kinds of juices, c.) a couple of different kinds of fruit. I also bought a ‘Bubbly Bar’ banner online to hang on the front of the table, along with a large chalkboard sign for a festive bar note + smaller chalkboard signs to label the juices.

The mimosa bar was a total hit, and I think we went through 5 double bottles of champagne with 40 guests (+ 3 double bottles of white & red wine!).

3.) ‘Recipe for a Great Marriage’ Activity. I found this idea on Sweet C’s Designs and immediately loved it. Instead of just doing a typical advice book for the bride, you ask guests to write marriage advice on wooden spoons. You gather the spoons up in mason jars, and the bride can take her advice spoons home as fun kitchen decor or to keep elsewhere in her home.

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Sunflower Butter Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies [gluten free]

Hi friends!

I have been down for the count with a killer ear infection + upper respiratory sickness. It’s a major bummer because I’ve gotten sick the last couple of times that I’ve visited Jersey to spend time with family, despite my nonstop rubbing of essential oils and drinking of green tea. I almost never get sick otherwise, and I think it’s the combination of a cross-country flight (the woman next to me was coughing the entire time!), going nonstop making plans with family & friends, the weather change, being around my adorable but very germ-y nephews, and drinking wine multiple days in a row. So, now I’m back home in Cali, resting up this week and taking it easy so that I can get back to normal.

But let’s talk about something more fun… like cookies! Breakfast cookies that is.

These sunflower butter banana oatmeal breakfast cookies were my second failed attempt at a green sunflower butter recipe for St. Paddy’s Day. The base of these normal colored cookies are rolled oats and almond meal. They’re sweetened with mashed banana, honey and apple sauce. You can sub in maple syrup to make them vegan as well.
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3 At-Home Kickboxing Workouts to Try

Out of all of the workouts that I enjoy doing, boxing is high up on my list of favorites. I just love the intensity and how fast-paced it is. I’ve gone to a few boxing classes at a Title Boxing Club near me recently, and boy are they tough. After the last one I went to, my abs, glutes, and shoulders were sore for a good three days. Every time I laughed or sneezed my mid section would be hurting!

San Diego area readers, I’ve been booking my classes through the Lymber Fitness app – which lets you book classes for a variety of workouts at studios in the area without memberships. It’s great for exercisers like me that like to switch it up a lot! If you’re interested in trying the app out, you can use the code NICOLELYMB-1-21 to get $5 off your first class.

While I love the intensity and hardcore calories burned that a sweat session of hitting the heavy bag brings, I also like doing boxing workouts at home sometimes – especially when I’m crunched for time and am squeezing in a workout in between meetings. Walking into my workout room to sweat it out beats sitting in rush hour traffic to get to a class some days!

That’s why today I wanted to share 3 of my favorite at-home kickboxing workouts. These are workouts that I do all the time in my house, or during weeks like this one where I’m traveling. I’m staying at my parents’ house on the east coast this week, so instead I’m kickboxing in their living room with an audience of family Pit bulls and cats, who like to sit 2.5 inches from where I’m kicking, and also sometimes my nephews, who join in by jumping around and busting out moves of their own. 😉


1.) 30-Minute Cardio Kickboxing Workout with Natalie Yco. This half-hour workout is a great calorie burner and I’ve done it many, many times. Any Jillian Michaels’ DVD fanatics may recognize Natalie as one of the fitness models from a few of her workouts. The workout is done with a jump rope, but I usually just do my own cardio moves instead – such as jumping jacks, lateral hops, squats, etc.

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Mediterranean Barley Stuffed Peppers

Hi friends!

How was your weekend? Did you celebrate St. Paddy’s Day? I was flying cross-country all day Friday on the actual holiday, but I had a chance to celebrate the Irish holiday yesterday with my parents. I’m in Jersey this week visiting family, and went to a winery yesterday with my parents that had a live Irish band playing. It made me want to be back in Ireland hanging out at pubs with my family!

So, let’s dive into the real topic at hand today: Mediterranean Barley Stuffed Peppers – an easy Meatless Monday dinner idea!

I’ve always been a fan of stuffed peppers, and for this recipe, I wanted to do something different in terms of grains. I usually will use brown rice for stuffed peppers, but this time I decided to try barley instead and loved it.

I like to make a nice sized pot of grains at the beginning of the week to use for a few different meals, so this time, I cooked up some barley and used some for this recipe, then some another night with veggie burgers and sautéed zucchini.

You can always swap out the barley for whatever other grain you feel like – such as farro, cous cous, or rice for a gluten free option.

These peppers take a Mediterranean twist with the inclusion of crumbled feta, red onion, artichoke hearts, avocado, red onion and portobello mushroom. I always love making meals Mediterranean-style because the ingredients commonly used in this type of fare are so healthy and flavorful!

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15 Interesting Food Trends & Finds at Expo West

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” – Julia Child

Last week I got to attend an expo where healthy food and conscious foodies collide: Natural Products Expo West. It’s an awesomely overwhelming show with every kind of food producer you could possibly imagine – from things you’d expect like protein bars, nut butters, and salad, to things you probably have never thought of, like brand new products that have never been sold before. There’s no shortage of yumminess, and brands are eager to have you sample their latest products. I sound like Captain Obvious saying this, but I love attending Expo West!

Today I thought it’d be fun to dive into 15 things that stood out to me at the show. Let’s get to it!

1.) Vegan food has gotten more delicious. Even as a vegetarian myself who eats vegan the vast majority of my meals, I used to shy away from some veganized products because they just didn’t taste that good to me. Well, that has changed, as brands are perfecting the art of meat & dairy-free food! Daiya’s vegan cheeses have gotten tastier and more melty, and I also liked their caesar dressing. Ozery Bakery introduced vegan brioche buns that were fabulous.

And Kite Hill is doing dairy-free deliciously too. I’ve bought their yogurts before so I already knew that I liked them, but I tried a bunch of their cream cheese spreads at the show… and trust me when I say that you wouldn’t even miss the dairy if you spread it on your bagel.

2.) Protein cookies are big right now. And I am not complaining about that! I like eating cookies and I like making sure I eat enough protein since I lead such an active lifestyle, so why not combine the two? Munk Pack came out with 4 tasty vegan, gluten free, non-GMO certified protein cookies flavors.

I also got to try Buff Bake‘s protein cookies, and their chocolate donut flavor was my favorite.

3.) Millet tots. For two days of the show, I was working at the booth of Rollin’ Greens with a blogger friend of mine, Laura. Since they’re doing something unique (& tasty of course!) in the market, I had to include them in this rundown. Rollin’ Greens is a Boulder-based company that puts their own healthy twist on tater tots, making them with the ancient grain of millet instead. They have their original flavor, and recently came out with two new flavors: an Italian herb + a spicy-sweet combo. Healthier takes on comfort food is one of my favorite things to create, so I love what Rollin’ Greens is doing!

4.) Cold soup bottles are the new green juice. Okay, I actually don’t know if I should take it that far, but know that soup in a bottle is a thing now. One company doing it is ZÜPA NOMA. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the soups… but in trying their flavors, I was pleasantly surprised to really like them! Their tomato gazpacho was full of fresh flavor, and I would totally buy soup bottles to drink on-the-go and get my veggies in.

5.) Sambazon’s new chocolate covered acai bites are delicious. Sambazon makes frozen acai packs that you can buy to make your own acai bowls at home, along with other acai products, and at the show they unveiled a new product: chocolate covered acai bites. They’re awesome, and I’ll definitely be buying them when I see them in stores!

6.) Tea with maitake mushroom powder is a thing. At the show I sipped on some organic tea from Blue Buddha that was made with ashwagandha extract and maitake mushroom powder. Sounds a little odd, but tastes good I swear! The company focuses on the tradition of using plants and herbs to help keep people healthy for thousands of years. The antioxidants from maitake mushroom help support a healthy immune function, while ashwagandha has been shown to relieve stress and increase mental focus. I’ll drink to that!



7.) Vita Coco gets the most clever booth award from me.
Vita Coco makes coconut-based water, milk and oil products, and their Expo West booth had the awesome above pictured display of a cow on vacation. I also thought their tagline, “Tastes like no udder” is pretty clever!

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Healthy Chocolate Chip Matcha Banana Muffins [vegan + gluten free]

This is the story about how I tried three times to create a naturally green recipe and totally failed… but came up with two yummy recipes in the process!

St. Paddy’s Day is coming up this Friday, and I was actually thinking ahead a few weeks ago when I decided I wanted to come up with a sweet recipe that had a green hue, sans food coloring.

I first heard that the chlorophyll in sunflower butter can turn baked goods green when it interacts with baking soda/powder when a friend of mine accidentally wound up with a green colored sunflower butter recipe, so my original idea was to make sunflower butter banana muffins. The result? They did not turn green, and they also turned out a bit dry, so it was a no go.

I decided it was possible that because I mixed all of my muffin ingredients together in my food processor, it too vigorously combined the ingredients and broke down the baking soda properties too much to successfully interact with the sunflower butter enough to turn them green. So for attempt #2, I made sunflower butter breakfast cookies that I only mixed by hand until the ingredients were combined.

While the cookies turned out yummy & I’ll be sharing that recipe soon, they did not turn green at all. Whomp whomp.

Feeling over the whole sunflower butter idea after two failed attempts, I moved onto another idea: making something with matcha. Matcha is a green tea powder with powerful antioxidant properties and a bright green color.

So for naturally green recipe attempt #3, I made matcha chocolate chip banana muffins. The batter was looking like it may have had a green hue to it prior to baking, but when I pulled them out of the oven, I practically screamed, “NOO, they look normal!”

While these muffins aren’t green in color, it turns out they’re delicious, so I’m sharing the recipe with you today. Made with oats and banana, they have some of my favorite healthy baking hacks – including the use of apple sauce & coconut oil. They’re sweetened only with maple syrup, banana and dairy free dark chocolate chips, and the matcha flavor is subtle.

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5 Yoga Poses & Moves to Strengthen Hip Mobility + One Tribe Apparel Giveaway!

Hi friends!

Today’s post is a fun one. First up, we’re talking about moves to strengthen & lengthen our hips, then it’s time for a giveaway!

Sometimes people think of strong hip mobility as something that only yogis and gymnasts should focus on. But the truth is, every single person can benefit from having better range of motion in their hips – from runners and weight lifters that don’t own a yoga mat, to people that don’t workout at all. Everything in our bodies is connected, and poor hip mobility can often lead to pain in other places in our bodies, like the lower back.

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite yoga poses & moves that stretch & strengthen the hips. I do these moves pretty much every day – whether during a yoga practice, at the beginning of a strength or cardio workout, or even sometimes when I’m just watching TV.

1.) Figure Four Pose. Start standing, then lift one foot off of the mat, placing the ankle on top of the other thigh. Draw your weight into your standing leg, and sink into the pose, hands in prayer. You can do Figure Four sitting or standing, but I like the shown standing variation because it also challenges your balance.


2.) Pigeon Pose. This pose is done in most yoga classes because it’s great for the hip flexors. One way to get into Pigeon is by starting on all fours, bringing one knee forward and placing it on the floor just behind your hand, with your heel pointing toward the frontal hipbone of your other leg. You can sink deeper into the pose by bringing your elbows to the ground, and you kick it up another notch by rotating behind you to grab the straight leg with your hand and bringing your foot up to hand, bending the leg.

3.) Hip Swings. I do this move nearly every day because I think it feels awesome! Start by standing on both legs, then bringing one leg off the ground, keeping it straight and bringing the foot slightly diagonal in front of you. Swing the leg out to the same side, aiming to get the leg up to hip level, then bring it back down in a controlled motion. Try to do 20 of these without your foot touching the ground, then switch sides.

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Healthier Fettuccine Alfredo with Spinach & Tomato

Hello strangers!

So, last week was probably the first full week that I did not post on this little corner of the internet of mine since I started this blog. Trust me, it wasn’t by choice!

I was pretty much in technology hell all week. My beloved computer had been running really slow, and I was troubleshooting and running back and forth to the Apple Store like my life depended on it – because well, it kind of does. I work on my computer every single day and depend on it as a publicist, blogger, freelance writer and health coach. So, you can imagine that I have a lot of stuff on this computer of mine!

To make a long story short, the good news is that my computer was salvaged and is now working fast. But what’s the bad news? Apple restored my computer without consulting me first, and wiped out many of my photos that I saved only on my computer + an external hard drive that randomly stopped working last week. And since my computer was running so poorly, I wasn’t able to successfully back up my photos. Believe me, I tried.

So yea, I’m majorly bummed about the photos being lost. I keep thinking of my travel photos, wedding shots, and captured family memories that I’ll probably never get to see again.

(Yes, my photos are now set up to automatically go to “the cloud” every day so that this never happens again.)

But on the bright side, I can recover some of them by looking at my past posts and social media, and saving them back one by one. Luckily I’ve posted a ton of photos on this blog of mine! And, I can resume working on my computer and it not take me 4x as long to do things. I know this sounds like such a first world problem, but with how much I rely on my Mac, the whole situation was very stressful. I’m thankful for yoga, baking and my bike trainer for keeping me sane when I wanted to rip my hair out!

So that’s that, but let’s get to the good stuff today… aka pasta.

Today’s recipe is one that I’ve been making for years. I first started making this dish after I had a craving for fettuccine alfredo, but when I ordered it out at a restaurant and ate half of the dish, I left feeling too full and kind of sick. That’s the thing about consistently eating healthy & light: When you eat heavier food once in awhile, your body does not like it! So, I did what any good food blogger would do: I came up with a lightened up recipe that leaves me feeling satisfied but not stuffed.

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