Happy Birthday, Swim!

Sometimes I wonder where I would be if I wasn’t with someone like this guy….

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Someone who supports my every crazy (though usually not so crazy to me) idea and dream! When we met back in 2010 I was not a vegetarian nor was as I fitness-focused as I am today. The first summer we spent together, I probably went to the gym 4 days a week and it wasn’t a big deal if I missed. I wouldn’t have even considered working out in the mornings and definitely not on the weekends.

I indulged in the occasional McFlurry, my fair share of pizza, and a lot of Twizzlers and french fries. I didn’t know how to slice a pepper let alone cook a meal. I learned to make basic stir fry that year but mostly survived on pre-cooked chicken wraps, BBQ’d chicken breasts, and a lot of instant breakfast shakes. I still remember the first time I made Ryan spaghetti (with meat sauce, not meat balls) and felt like a total domestic goddess lol…

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Ryan likes to think he taught me how to cook but I can’t recall that memory so well… but I do remember the first time he cooked for me and I knew this guy was a keeper 😉

I wouldn’t say I was unhealthy, but I definitely wasn’t where I am today. I wasn’t completely comfortable with myself and I was the definition of a weekend warrior; depriving myself as much as possible through the week to erase my progress in a weekend.

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I slowly transitioned into a healthier person, becoming more concerned with what I put into my body and how I spent my time at the gym. Ryan couldn’t have been more supportive and never once tried to guilt or convince me into indulging or skipping a workout. He never said I was “taking it too far” or that I should or shouldn’t do something I was doing. He always gave me space to try new things and figure it out for myself. Most of the time he was right there with me, and if not, it was understood with zero judgement – he ordered pizza and I ordered salad.

The biggest change for me was definitely committing to a plant-based diet in January of last year. After spending 3 years with someone who had close to the same eating habits, I can imagine it would be difficult when suddenly the dinner menu changed completely. But not once did he complain or push back. Not once did he make a single negative comment. Not once did he ask me to cook or buy meat and he’s tried every one of my kitchen experiments.

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In fact, he decided to become a weekday vegetarian, not just in support of me, but because he knows the major impact it has on the world as a whole. He studied renewable energy in school so he gets it.

Even today on his birthday he suggested going to dinner somewhere we know I can get a vegan meal. Sure its one of the nicest places in Fredericton, but he easily could have said he wanted wings and beer or dragged me to a steak house.

So on your birthday, Mr. Swim, I just want to thank you for being there for me, with me, through thick and thin, through ups and downs, through getting my engineering degree, moving halfway across the country, a partially long distance relationship, crappy jobs, countless traveling, Insanity, juice cleanses, veganism, burnt dinners, shared holidays, blogging, 30 days of yoga, and the list goes on…

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We are not the same people who met in 2010 but the fact that we are still so happy together assures me that no matter what comes our way, I will be making you breakfast waffles (with or without the maple syrup) for many years to come ❤

I can’t imagine having a someone more supportive and encouraging by my side. I don’t think I would be who I am today without you. And even if I was… I bet I’d be pretty lonely 😉

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Love you more than words can say!

Happy Birthday, Swimmer 🙂

Lizzie xo

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6 Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

Exercise.

Habit.

Two words that most people don’t see going in the same sentence. How can exercise be something you “just do”? If you’re not one of those people who enjoy exercise (there are more out there than you may think!) how can it ever not be a forced activity in your day?

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I remember when my workout felt like a chore. It was painful to drag myself to the gym (or in front of a P90X video) and get started. Once I did start it was fine, but getting started was the worst part of my day. I would so rather be sleeping, watching tv, shopping, eating, ANYTHING but working out.

But we all know that exercise is good for us. It’s not necessary to workout 7 days a week but according to the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, you should get at least 150 minutes per week (source).

Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (18-64 years) #
To achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
It is also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities using major muscle groups, at least 2 days per week.
More daily physical activity provides greater health benefits.

So how can you make this a habit; something you just do without thinking about? Here are my 6 tips for making exercise a non-negotiable part of your day:

1. Have a Clear Vision

There is a difference between a goal to lose weight or be fit vs. losing weight or getting fit to reach your goal. I’m not exercising to lose weight or to look good for a specific event. I’m in it for life. I want to feel sexy and confident every day. I want to have energy and regular sleeping & eating patterns.  I want to live long enough to see my children’s, children have children. And I want to be the best possible version of myself so I can be my best for others.

I think being fit and healthy will allow me to be all of these things.

Having my priorities straight is what keeps me going back to the gym day after day. Shallow goals are too easy to make excuses for. For example, I strength train because I want to have functional strength for everyday activities. If my goal was to be able to squat 100 lbs, it would be a lot easier to put that off for another day, and then another…

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2. Plan Your Week

Every Sunday I take a look at the upcoming week and my work/personal commitments. I schedule my workouts from Monday-Saturday around those plans. For example, on a travel day I may need to work out a little later in the evening or if I have dinner plans with friends, I’ll hit the gym in the morning before work.

I have a to-do list for each day which includes my meals and fitness for that day. It doesn’t always have to be perfect; some nights are busy, canned soup nights (Amy‘s are the best!) and sometimes the best workout I can squeeze in is 30 minutes on the elliptical. Regardless, having a plan keeps me on track.

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3. Prep The Night Before

If I know I’m taking a yoga class the following day, my mat, towel & yoga bag are sitting by the door. If I’m working out in the morning, I’m sure to have an on-the-go breakfast ready like these vegan overnight oats!

Laying everything out the night before saves a lot of time and stress in the morning. Plus, you will be less likely to forget your socks or headphones and you’ll show up with the right gear! I’d prefer not to do BodyAttack in a Free-To-Be bra 😉

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4. Choose Workouts You Enjoy

If you hate spin (like me), don’t spin. Just because it’s amazing cardio doesn’t mean its for everyone. I’d rather do 10,000 burpees. If it’s a gorgeous day out and you’re dreading the gym, go for a run outside. When it comes to exercise, there  is something for everyone. Just to name a few:

  • Organized sports – Join a basketball team or a dance club
  • Casual sports – Have a tennis match with your bestie or go snowshoeing
  • Running/walking – Go solo, with a friend, join a running group, or go all out and start marathon training
  • Group fitness classes – Both Les Mills and the YMCA offer something for everyone who thrives in a group atmosphere
  • The gym – TRX, weight lifting, cardio machines
  • Home workout videos – Beach Body videos (i.e. P90X), Jillian Michaels, TIU
  • Online fitness – BlogilatesYou Tube videos

The list goes on…

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5. Commit to Friends

If you tell someone your going to be there, you probably will. When I was in university I always worked out with my friend Britt. I remember a lot of mornings wishing we hadn’t made plans to be at the gym first thing, but I wasn’t about to be the one to back out. Afterwards, I was always SO glad I dragged myself out of bed. Usually once our weekly schedule was set, we rarely missed a workout.

Meeting friends to workout can be a bit of a social thing too. I love having company for a yoga class or a circuit and you wouldn’t believe the cool people you meet through healthy living 😉

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6. Acknowledge & Celebrate Progress!

Of course doing something over and over will get frustrating if you aren’t seeing any results, but remember your weight is not the only indicator of progress. There are a number of factors that can prove you are making headway:

  • Body measurements
  • Body fat percentage
  • Blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol
  • How your clothes feel
  • Energy levels
  • Strength
  • Endurance

Remember to set realistic, sustainable goals (see #1) and celebrate even the smallest successes! If you beat your 5k time, maybe buy yourself a new pair of running shorts. If you’re at a plateau, reassess your routine and make some changes.

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Exercise needs to be fun and enjoyable or it will never be a habit. It can be all of these things if above all, you want it to be. You need to decide for yourself that you want to live a healthy, active lifestyle; that you want to be fit & healthy and are willing to work for it.

You are the only person who can make those things happen. Not your gym buddy, not your trainer, not Jillian Michaels… YOU! So get out your to-do list, plan your week, and pack your gym bag. There’s no time like the present… 🙂

Here’s to healthy habits!

Liz xo

WIAW: The Lunchbox Edition

Oooh!

Guess what! I remember to take pics of all of my meals after writing it on my to-do list everyday for like 2 weeks… what’s the use of a to-do list if you never use it to remember “to-do” anything?!

Actually, I make very good use of my lists I just never look at them before 7:30 am so my breakfast is usually a distant memory by then. I had so much fun doing my first WIAW post about a typical home-office day I wanted to do one for a day on site. Not to mention I totally dropped the ball on Peas & Crayons’ link up last time. Maybe I should add “link up” to my to-do list today.. hmm..

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The majority of the time I have to pack a lunch to keep me fueled from the time I leave the house at 7:15 am (5:30 if I’m hitting the gym – eek!) and return at 6-7 pm, depending on what time I get to the gym after work.

I always eat breakfast at home because my belly is growling when my feet hit the floor then I’m dining on the road until dinner. Here’s a look into what I ate this Monday while on the job:

Breakfast: My first “oats in the bottom of a nut butter jar” (AMAZING)
~1.5 tbsp almond butter, 1/2 cup cooked oats, 1 tsp cinnamon,
1 tbsp maple syrup, handful blueberries

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Morning Snack:
Peppermint Stick LUNA bar + Cara Cara Orange

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Lunch: Buffalo Cauliflower Salad
huge handful spinach, 1/4 cucumber, few grape tomatoes, 1/2 cup buffalo cauliflower,
1/2 cup green garbanzo beans + 1 tbsp Goddess Dressing (watered down)

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Afternoon Snack: Veg+Hummus
1/2 cup baby carrots, 1/2 cup broccoli + 2 tbsp hummus
(oops, almost didn’t get a pic…)

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Pre-gym: The ushe 😉
Hey, if it ain’t broke…

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Dinner: Buffalo Cauliflower Tortilla Pizza
1 brown rice tortilla, 1/3 cup pizza sauce, handful spinach, few mushrooms,
1/2 tomato, 1/2 cup buffalo cauli, heaping 1/4 cup Daiya mozzarella + side garden salad

I made a batch of the cauliflower on the weekend… don’t judge 😉

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Evening Snack: Yogurt bowl + homemade water kefir
1/2 cup So Delicious coconut yogurt, 1/2 tbsp almond butter,
2 tbsp brown rice crisp cereal, 1/4 cup blueberries

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Along with 3-4 litres of water, that’s a wrap!

In case you’re wondering, which I’m all of the non-veggies are, my total protein intake for the day was 68 g. I’ve been using My Fitness Pal to do a little experimenting and I’m loving it!

It’s recommended to get 9-10% of your daily calorie intake from protein and I average about 12%. Check out this post for more details on your true protein requirements 🙂

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Click here to see what other bloggers are chowing down on this week!

Did you eat anything interesting this week?
What’s the ushe in your lunchbox?

Liz xo

Winter Staycation + Traditional Stew

Hey 🙂

How was your weekend? Mine was exactly what I needed… a few evenings at home to reset and recharge.

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Valentine’s Day was just what I’d hoped for; a lovely dinner at Brewbaker’s with my sweetheart featuring Thai Vermicelli, the signature vegan dish available upon request, and a glass of vino. Did you know one rose means I love you? ❤

Dinner was followed by a relaxing evening at home with chocolates, more wine, and this little party animal passing out by 10:30 😉

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The good news? My BodyStep instructor told me that’s the secret: start early and end early. You can have just as much fun and still make it to Step the next morning… lol

Regardless, I still felt abnormally exhausted all day Saturday. I guess it was just the busy week and previous social weekends catching up with me. We were originally supposed to head to Salisbury for the night to see Meag before she went back to the west coast but the weather was having none of that. After Friday’s weather bomb covered us in snow and freezing rain, another storm hit Saturday night that buried us again.

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Anticipating the storm, we and decided to stick close to home, spending Saturday shopping around and running some errands. A little staycation actually sounded pretty good since I clearly needed some time to recharge.

I bought a new winter jacket which I desperately needed. It seems I only own long coats and one warm jacket which I wear to work so it smells like pulpmill… Mmm.. this super light, down alternative jacket will be perfect for to-and-from and is unbelievably warm. I was skeptical about the colour at first but the lovely lady at the Radical Edge convinced me it was a good choice. She was right. Thanks Kaylee 😉

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Since we were snowed in for most of the day on Sunday I decided it was the perfect day for some housework I’d been putting off. Most people would consider this laundry, sweeping & dishes….

Child’s play. I was ready to clean & organize my fridge and drawers. Don’t judge. I like clean.

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I also made a big pot of traditional-style stew which filled our apartment with the smell of “home”. It was the perfect comfort food for a cold, wintery Sunday evening.

I usually make something like my Spicy Sweet Potato Tofu Stew but went the more “traditional” route this time. By traditional I mean the kind of stew my mom used to make with beef and lots of root veggies. By “traditional” I mean tofu in place of beef 😉

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If you’ve never added tofu to your veggie stew you’re missing out! It absorbs the flavour of the broth, spices, & veggies and gets oh so soft in the slow cooker…. omnomnom!

I bet you want the recipe, don’t you? If you’re an Atlantic Canadian you can totally appreciate this kind of soul warming goodness! If you’re living some place that you’re not buried in snow, you might not be as excited to dig in to a big hot bowl of stew. For my fellow east coasters, here’s what’s in the Crockpot:

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“Traditional” Stew with Tofu

Serves approx. 8

  • 2 medium sweet potato
  • 3 medium white potato
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 small turnip
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 block tofu, pressed
  • 2 cartons veggie broth
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp thyme, dried
  • 2 tbsp oregano, dried
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

Chop your veggies and add all ingredients to a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. My Crockpot was FULL so it needed the entire 8 hours.

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This is a dish best served the following day. I would almost recommend NOT eating it the day of, and waiting to enjoy it when the flavours are fully incorporated.

I’m thinking about another WIAW post this week if I can remember to photograph my meals before I devour them 😉 Stay tuned!

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So how about you…

Are you sick of the snow yet?
Are you a fan of homemade stews?

Liz xo

8 Chocolatey Love Day Recipes <3

Happy Valentine’s Day!:)

I totally love this day!! Ever since I was a little girl and my very first Valentine was my mom, she always did something special for breakfast and had some chocolates & a little gift waiting for me when I woke up. You don’t need extravagant plans with a significant other to spread love today. Don’t ruin the fun by boycotting Valentine’s Day just because it’s “a day to promote consumerism”.

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Here’s what I had to say about the day of love on my Facebook today:

I don’t care that Valentine’s Day is a made up, commercialized Hallmark holiday. Guess what? So is Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s Day, etc. Would you boycott Mother’s Day too…? Why can’t we take one day to drop our ordinary routines and do something extra special with someone (anyone!) we love? 

You have to make your own happiness. Why not just accept this day as an excuse to dine out, eat chocolate for breakfast, and give someone a pretty card? You don’t need to spend a tonne of money or do something extraordinary. Just be happy. Wear red. Eat candy. Say I love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day to ALL of my amazing family & friends. I can’t name everyone but you know who you are ♥♥♥

I hope you all agree 🙂

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Something I do have to say about traditional Valentine’s Day gifts is that those heart shaped boxes of chocolates are usually pretttty unhealthy. Now, I know a day like today isn’t about being “healthy” but I because I feel so strongly about food and how it fuels out bodies, our lives, I prefer to say I love you with homemade, plant-based treats as much as possible.

I can’t feel good about saying “I love you, but here’s a bag of high fructose corn syrup that has been linked to diabetes, heart problems, and other health concerns”. Not at all…

Here’s a little compilation of some sweet treats you can feel good about this Valentine’s Day!

8 Chocolatey Love Day Recipes ❤

Chocolate Rice Crispy Squares via Georgia Trying Something New (from The Kind Food Diet)

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My FAVOURITE Peanut Better Balls from Oh She Glows

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Crockpot Chocolate Almond Bark from Hol-Fit

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Basic Chocolate Cupcakes via Lizzie Fit (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World)

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Double Chocolate Avocado Ice Cream from Hummusapien

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For the single ladies: Healthy Birthday Valentine’s Day Cupcake for One from Lizzie Fit

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Basic Chocolate Covered Strawberries (or pretzels, orange slices, etc.)

Melt some dark chocolate in a pot with a little coconut oil. Dip your strawberries or other fruit/pretezels in the chocolate then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate until set then enjoy 🙂

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Three-Ingredient Cookies from Skinny Taste

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More great round-ups can be found all over the blogosphere today! I suggest checking out Hummusapien and Oh She Glows for desserts and Making Thyme for Health and I Heart Vegetables for some vegan vegetarian dinner ideas.

What are you doing to spread love this Valentine’s Day?

Will you be making some heart-healthy treats? 

Happy Love Day Ya’ll ❤

Liz xo

Keep Calm & Eat Cupcakes + Basic Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

Hey, hey 🙂

How is everyone’s week going so far? I’m feeling pretty great in the second week of the Find Your Balance February challenge. This weekend was a perfect balance of indulgent and requirement. I made my very first from-scratch cupcakes for Meagan’s birthday: Chocolate Mint Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World!

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I was super excited to make them but super nervous at the same time. I read the book’s introduction to familiarize myself with necessary tools, ingredients & techniques. Then I read the ingredients and directions through about 10 times before heading to the grocery store. I bought everything I needed including a carrying tray and decorating kit then read the ingredients another 10 times.

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I baked the cupcakes on Friday night and used every ounce of restraint in my body not to eat half the batter. OOOOMG batter 😀

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I decorated them on Saturday morning and topped them off with a piece of Camino mint dark chocolate and used the remaining morsels of restraint I had not to stuff my face before they made it to Meag’s. OOOOMG icing 😀

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They were 100% approved by vegans (me) and non-vegans (everyone else) alike. Everyone said they never would have known they were vegan and I was even asked for the recipe. WIN!

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Usually when I enter into this kind of foreign activity I either totally win or totally womp. I’m going to pat myself on the back and say this one was a win 😉

On the requirement side of things, which I guess I need to share before you think I survived on only cupcakes for the rest of the weekend, I had some delicious smoothies packed with extra power foods like wheatgrass & raw cacao. Since we had pineapple in the house I couldn’t resist a Green-a-Colada and I also bought some frozen cherries to bring back my all-time favourite chocolate cherry bomb smoothie.

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I had a few killer workouts, especially the new BodyStep – holy crap! I did not think my heart rate would stay so high in the class I consider by B-level cardio. How have I not tested the Polar at BodyAttack yet?!

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I am also pretty proud of last week’s balance of yoga, strength & cardio workouts. Here’s my plan for this week:

Monday – BodyStep
Tuesday – BodyPump + CX Worx (core)
Wednesday – Hot Flow
Thursday – BodyAttack
Friday – Hot Yoga
Saturday – BodyPump OR solo weights session
Sunday – OFF 🙂

Now… since I’ve left your mouth totally water for cupcakes (how mean), I thought I’d share the recipe for Isa Chandra’s basic chocolate cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. They serve as the base for many of her cupcake recipes, including the chocolate mint. I’ve seen the recipe shared on several blogs & recipe sites including chow.com so I figured it was safe to share it here!

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Basic Chocolate Cupcake Recipe

Makes 12 cupcakes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp almond extract, chocolate extract, or more vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder (Dutch processed or regular)
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan (preferably aluminum) with paper or foil liners.
  2. Whisk together the soy milk and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, vanilla extract, and other extract, if using, to the soy milk mixture and beat until foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat until no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are OK).
  3. Pour into liners, filling ¾ of the way. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  4. Decorate accordingly.

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*LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Do not overfill cupcake liners. If your pouring results in 11 filled liners instead of 12 your cupcakes will be a little rounded on top and the icing won’t sit as nicely (i.e. it will droop to one side and might completely fall off… so then you will definitely have to eat that one…)
  • Using an aluminum pan will make softer, fluffier cupcakes than stainless steel muffin pans. Do the magnet test: If a magnet sticks, its not aluminum.
  • Sift, sift, sift. Do not rely on just mixing. The end result is so much better.
  • Let cool COMPLETELY before decorating. This is why I baked them the night before to avoid an impatient Lizzie 😉
  • I don’t recommend trying to make these gluten-free. Basic all-purpose flour results in a totally different final product if you ask me. Lucky for the gluten-sensitive there are gluten-free cupcake recipes in the book.
  • You can sub some whole-wheat pastry flour (not regular whole wheat flour) as per Isa’s recommendations in the book’s intro BUT whole wheat flour results in a more dense cupcake.

Go get em, Martha- I mean Isa! 😉

Liz xo

Persinnamon Heart Smoothie

Well…

What a week this has been. I am more than ready for the weekend and can’t wait to tune out for 2 whole days 🙂 I don’t want to be one of those people who wait all week for Friday but I really, really LOVE Fridays! I have something to love about every other day of the week too… Bachelor Mondays, BodyAttack Tuesdays…. but no day will ever compare to Friday. Not even if Juan Pablo showed up at my door with a rose every Wednesday. My boyfriend is way cooler anyway 😉

My only worry… I woke up this morning with a throbbing sore throat! I’ve been taking extremely good care of myself so I am hoping that I can kick this before Saturday night’s events. I pulled out all the stops this morning:

carrot beet ginger

Juice
Wheatgrass shots
Echinacea
Ginger tea with lemon
And packed a lunch full of fruit and veggies (did you know kale has more vitamin C than an orange per 100 g?)

Who needs luck when you have PLANT POWER! If you want to know exactly how I’ve avoided getting sick for over a year you can read about my witchcraft here 😉

Speaking of delicious fruits, loaded with vitamin C and other bug-fighting abilities, how about them persimmon?

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These little gems have about 70 calories per 100 g and contain loads of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. They are a very good source of vitamin-C, especially native Chinese and American persimmon which provide 80% of the daily recommended intake.

Persimmon have many B-complex vitamins such as folic acid, pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), thiamin, etc.  For more details on the health benefits, check out this source.

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Persimmon is the star in February’s smoothie of the month, combined with the key to any great smoothie – banana, a little natural sweetness from dates, and a warm hug from a some cinnamon and spice.

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There are no cinnamon hearts involved directly, but the persimmon-cinnamon (persinnamon) smoothie holds the key to my post-yoga heart this February. Try it, you’ll like it 🙂

Persinnamon Heart Smoothie

Serves 2

  • 1.5 cups almond milk
  • 2 persimmon, peeled
  • 1 banana*
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 2 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • pinch nutmeg
  • optional: 1 cup spinach

Blend everything up in your weapon of choice and garnish with a cinnamon stick if you’re fancy like that!

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*For a banana substitution, try 1/4-1/2 an avocado (warning: this will turn your smoothie light green) or 1/2 cup coconut yogurt. For added sweetness, toss in an extra date or 2 until desired results are achieved. For a thicker consistency, decrease the almond milk and/or increase the cashews.

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Have an amazing weekend and stay on top of your health this winter 🙂

Liz xo