Start Your Day with a Healthy Protein Punch – Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie

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Breakfast truly does set the tone for the day. In fact, many nutritional experts agree that it is the most important daily meal. With that being said, breakfast is probably the easiest meal to veer off the healthy eating course.

And it is not difficult to do so! Think about it; many common breakfast foods like cereals, pancakes, muffins, granola bars, tarts and even most yogurts are loaded with sugar and other garbage. Eating these foods at breakfast sets you up for a day of blood sugar spikes and potential crashes by mid-day. This is the last thing we need during our busy days!

A Healthy Way to Start Your Day

There are much better ways to start your day. Why not add some healthy protein power to your mornings? Below is my Almond Butter Cup Protein Smoothie recipe that is not only protein-packed (which will keep you full until lunch) but is healthy, features no added sugar and tastes like a decadent dessert.

It’s called Almond Butter Cup because it tastes similar to the popular peanut butter cup candy – except the recipe features almond butter instead of peanut butter. (Almond butter is much healthier than peanut butter for reasons described in my earlier blog post here.)

Chocolate plant-based protein powder serves as the base ingredient of this recipe. Taste is subjective; so, find a protein powder that tastes great to your palate. Also, look for one without any added sugar and unnatural ingredients. (I also make sure any protein powder I purchase is gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free.) Below are some protein powders that I recommend:

Rebuild Protein Powder – Chocolate

Orgain Plant-Based Protein – Creamy Chocolate Fudge

Sunwarrior – Warrior Raw, Plant-based Protein – Chocolate

Bulletproof Chocolate Collagen

Almond Butter Cup Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk, cashew milk or almond milk/cashew milk combination
  • 2 scoops of chocolate plant-based protein powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cacao powder (make sure it does not contain added sugars; I use this one.)
  • 1 handful of spinach (or you may use a scoop of green powder if you prefer)
  • 1 handful of shredded carrots
  • 8 frozen or fresh blueberries
  • 3 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (or you may use one small banana instead)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter (pick one without unhealthy or unnecessary added ingredients. Click here for guidance in selecting healthy nut butters.)
  • A pinch of pumpkin pie spice
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

The instructions couldn’t be any easier. Just place all ingredients in your blender and blend away. A few seconds later, you will have a rich, creamy and protein-packed smoothie that keep you full for hours.

A Tasty Staple in Any Morning Routine

This is one protein smoothie that I can’t get enough of each morning. I literally wake up looking forward to making this tasty treat every day. This smoothie satisfies salty, chocolate and sweet cravings at once – which is rare for a beverage or food. Plus it is not only loaded with plant-based protein, it includes a one-two punch of vitamins and fiber. It’s a must try for anyone who loves peanut butter cup candies!

Just Breathe: 8 Tips to De-Stress During Hectic Days

As the song goes, “Mama said there’ll be days like this.” Days when nothing seems to go right and when stress seems to get the better of us.

We’ve all had these kind of days. Days where we are pulled in multiple directions, get shaken by bad news, have to wear multiple hats or when 24 hours in a day just doesn’t seem to be enough. Even events like the unsettling presidential election and the seemingly unending cycle of disheartening world news can add additional stress to our already overburdened lives.

When life gets hectic, we have been conditioned by TV shows, commercials and movies to reach for a pint of ice cream or a glass of wine to soothe our heavy souls. While there is nothing wrong with imbibing with a glass of wine from time to time or indulging with a little ice cream on occasion, these items only provide us with temporary comfort. In fact, if you have too much of either, they could make you feel much worse.

Why make your stress any worse? Instead, try one of these healthy tips to insert some calm in your life, brighten your mood … and perhaps salvage your day!

1) Take a Walk Around the Block

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A simple brisk walk (or any exercise for that matter) can do wonders for your mood and stress. Exercise helps release endorphins, which in turn can help improve your mood. So, stretch your legs and take a little walk around your neighborhood. You might return home feeling refreshed and less stressed.

Click here to learn about how walking can help improve your mood and decrease stress.

2) Incorporate Meditation into Your Routine

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Meditation may seem out there at first. Trust me, it took me a long time to get into it. Finding just 10 minutes a day to let go and meditate can help you tackle your stress. Don’t rely just on my endorsement, though. Some of the nation’s largest institutions, such as Mayo Clinic and Harvard, promote meditation as an excellent stress reliever.

Unsure of how to begin? Guided meditations are available for little or no cost. Subscribe to Hay House Daily Meditations podcast on iTunes or Google Play for free meditations. YouTube also offers a vast catalog of no cost guided meditations that you can peruse.

Lastly, if you crave more structure with your meditations, consider a subscription to apps like Headspace or Calm; these meditation apps offer a multitude of meditations to choose from, help track your progress and send you notifications to motivate you to meditate daily. Both apps offer several subscription plans based on your needs.

3) Relax with Essential Oils

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Taking a whiff of essential oils like lavender, mint and eucalyptus has been known to provide an almost instant calming effect. That’s why places like spas and yoga studios – places where people specifically go to relax – often feature a strong aroma of essential oils when you walk through the door.

These days, essential oils are extremely accessible and affordable. You can find them in places like Whole Foods, vitamin stores, health stores and pharmacies. In fact, I recently picked up a lavender essential oil roller ball applicator at CVS.

As an added bonus, essential oils work wonders for other ailments as well, such as headaches, colds and more.

Need ideas as to how to use essential oils for relaxation? Check out these tips from mindbodygreen.

4) Add a Cup of Chamomile Tea to Your Bedtime Routine

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Chamomile has been used as medicine in some cultures for centuries. Research shows that drinking a cup of chamomile tea not only helps your body relax, it also soothes your digestive tract and can even help you sleep better.

Although not recommended for consumption during the day because of its relaxing effect, chamomile tea might be just what you need to unwind at bedtime. Click here to learn more about the benefits of drinking chamomile tea.

5) Treat Yourself to a Facial or Massage

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There is almost no place more serene than a spa. The aroma, the calming spa music and the overall pampering provide a soothing escape of our everyday stresses. It’s common to leave a spa with the feeling that the weight of the world has been lifted from our shoulders.

Although a splurge, many coupon sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial make facials and massages much more affordable. In fact, it is often easy to find spas offering coupons for facials and massages for $50 or less. So, pamper yourself today!

6) Watch Your Caffeine Intake

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When we are stressed, we often also feel drained and tired. Our instinct when this happens is to grab anything in sight that is loaded with caffeine for some “instant pep.” Proceed with caution, though. Consuming one cup of coffee or tea is probably not going to make your stress any worse; however, a few cups of caffeinated beverages can quickly make you jittery and anxious. Reach for some soothing decaffeinated tea or hot water with lemon instead!

7) Paint or Color!

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Adult coloring books and group painting classes are all the rage now! These activities not only give us nostalgia for our childhood art classes, several studies actually show that coloring or painting can help us relax and de-stress. If you haven’t tried it for yourself, why not pick up an adult coloring book (they’re everywhere these days) or sign up for a  painting class.

8) Try Acupuncture

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Most people tend to look to the Western world for stress relief remedies, but you may find relief from giving Eastern medicine remedies like acupuncture a try. Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese medicinal practice that includes pricking the skin in strategic places with fine needles, has long been touted as a panacea for musculoskeletal pain relief, infertility, digestive issues and hormonal imbalances. Studies also suggest that acupuncture may help with stress and anxiety.

Acupuncture has done wonders for me. I see an acupuncturist weekly for pain relief, but have found that my Friday pre-work appointment also ensures that at least one hour of deep relaxation is on my schedule each week. I often leave feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Acupuncture can be pricey; however, more and more insurance companies are covering (or at least offering steep discounts for) acupuncture services as part of standard health plan benefits. In addition, some community acupuncture centers offer acupuncture for as little as $25 per session. If you are interested in trying acupuncture, I recommend calling your health insurance company and researching practitioners in your area. Look for a licensed acupuncturist with advanced Eastern medicine schooling, one with favorable online reviews and a provider with a clean and comfortable office.

Don’t Let Stress Get the Best of You!

So, the next time you are feeling a bit stressed, keep these tips in your back pocket. There is no need to suffer in silence. Find what works for you and keep stress relief strategies in your arsenal for handling future stressful days. Here’s to less stress and more relaxation!