Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I go all out! Sometimes I buy a premade costume but other times I make one like my belly dancer costume pictured here from last year. I searched high and low for that pink snake which I ended up losing that night. I've dressed up as a peacock (which I think is my favorite costume), a matador (bullfighter), Cleopatra, Marilyn Monroe in Gentleman prefer Blondes, a cavewoman, Madonna and Jem (is outrageous!). This year I'm going to be a mermaid!

To get into the season so far I've made pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry, went to an annual pumpkin carving contest, my first corn maize (at night in the rain), and went to a haunted house. And I've been drinking pumpkin Shakeology - check out the video.

I've talked about creating healthy Easter Baskets, likewise you should consider offering a healthy alternative to candy to your trick or treaters for America's biggest candy holiday.

clementines (you can draw a pumpkin face on them)
mini Lara Bars
apricot granola bars
Chia bars (my fave!)
Snack-Sized Trail Mix Packets
Natural fruit rollups
Buddy's Fruit Bites

or non-food goodie bags such as:
Fang Whistles
Glow in the Dark Rubbie duckies
crayon packs

Check out the company Get Unreal who makes non-chemical versions of your favorite candy bars like Milky Way and Peanut M&M’s so they do not contain HFCS, trans fat or artificial coloring.

I love Annie's brand, I only buy her boxed organic white cheddar mac and cheese. For halloween she has individual serving packets of bunny shaped graham crackers which are made with real ingredients, no preservatives, or artificial flavors or colors. The grahams are made from organic wheat, they're low in calories and have calcium in it!

Check out these adorable funny kids halloween costumes!


The Zumba ad says to "party yourself into shape, the latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness party" which is a great description for what it is.  I took my first zumba class just 3 years ago and now I'm hooked! My first thought was I've never had so much fun in a class before! You really sweat it out dancing for a full hour to awesome music! I remember my first instructor did a routine straight from Lady Gaga's Bad Romance video. Since then I've taken classes with many different instructors at different gyms to try out different styles.  I've found that the teacher makes or breaks the class. I've had instructors who bored me tears and hence I burned few calories and whose music I didn't care for, I really like the ones that mix in a lot of pop music into their class. My favorite teacher right now has a facebook like page and she lets her students know where she is subbing every week since she doesn't have a regular class. I see the same regulars show up any various gyms throughout the city for her class! lol I tried the zumba video to do at home but it's just not the same experience.

The most exhilerating zumba experience I had was dancing zumba in two NBA halftime shows! I can't begin to tell you how nervous I was for that! lol I swear the people sitting courtside looked a cross between bored and puzzled as to who let it be amature hour. lol

I started going to zumbathons a couple times a year which is a two hour zumba class led by multiple instructors in a larger space. OMG those are the most fun ever!!!! It's their best routines and favorite songs, I've burned 1000 calories in those! The last one I went to was at a theater that had open space in front of the stage so perfect for dancing. They had a full light show, costume changes, it was full production! 

My latest zumba experience was aqua zumba. There were only 5 people in the class with varying ages in a pool that was 3.6 feet deep. The moves weren't exactly the same as land zumba as it had to account for water pressure, we especially couldn't do fancy foot work or fast turns. I wore a shower cap to not get my hair wet (which I'm sure I looked silly in) but since there was no splashing, there was no risk of that. The instructor stood outside the pool but later entered the pool with her shoes on. I wish I had shoes on because it wasn't comfortable dancing barefoot on the pool's floor. Halfway in I got a leg cramp, which I never get, so it had to be the barefoot dancing. I ended up having to leave class with a limp, it was so embarrassing to get injured in aqua zumba! lol All in all I didn't feel it got my heart rate up as it wasn't as challenging as land zumba, but it could have just been the instructor. 

I have yet to try glow in the dark zumba, definitely on my bucket list! ps you're never too old to Zumba! Check out these ladies aged 91 to 101 doing zumba!

Check out the mashup video below, it's the opening song for my favorite zumba instructor's class! It's a mix of these four songs:

Michael Jackson - Beat It
Rihanna - We Found Love
J-Lo - On The Floor
Owl City+Carly Rae Jepsen - Good Time

Don't get lazy this fall!

As it starts to get colder and the sun sets sooner, it can be tempting to skip your workout routine. Personally, autumn is when I am in my best shape because I'm always toning up for Halloween, then comes NYE and my birthday.  I create a schedule for my morning workouts which I find beneficial to avoid skipping workouts. I plan my menus and keep to it. This means I never have to add weight loss to my new years resolutions because I stay on target during fall so there's no surprise 10 lbs come January or holiday guilt or  panic about being skinny for summer. There is no secret or quick fix to having the body you want, just eat the right balance of foods, drink plenty of water and limit processed foods and sugars and you'll soon notice a difference. If you're heading out to fairs, festivals and holiday parties you need to set a plan in place for events that will have food so you don't panic. You don't want to end up like this pigeon who flew into an apt complex courtyard, gorged on too much food given to him by residents, that he became too heavy for his wings to lift him up to fly and couldn't leave. I want you to be able to resist all those breadcrumbs so you won't have to walk around with an embarrassing sign affixed to your shirt because you have no self control.

The world is full of temptations, fattening food, sugar fixes and pitfalls. Either you lock yourself in the house and be miserable or you learn to go out into the world without gorging yourself on food. You know these events are coming up so plan ahead. Save a few calories, do some extra exercise, have a small portion of whatever it is you want. It's going to be a long miserable life if you don't learn how to implement willpower! Here are some strategies you can try.

First of all focus on the people at the event, and get more socially interested in them rather than focus on the food, which sounds easy but I have to work at it too.

Second some people like to cut back on their  food intake the day of an event so they can eat more at the event but that only means you show up hungry. Another strategy is to eat well beforehand, so you're not hungry when you get there.  Plus make sure you're well hydrated as well, from water or a piece of fruit so it's enough to feel full and keep you from storming the buffet table.

Third, go to the back of the buffet line so all the fatty stuff is picked through already. Fourth,  spread the more nutritious food to cover your plate so it looks visually full, with as many healthy items as you can, and pass on the low nutrient stuff. If it's a potluck, I always make sure to bring a healthy main dish.

Fourth my best bet is to not eat the dessert table or even look at it. As I have proven to myself many times over, if I eat sugary things, I need to "sample" all, so it's best I not even start. Fifth, try to stick to no more than one drink all evening. Any more than that and my resolve dissolves into an alcoholic sugar spike; next thing I know, I'm reaching for my 3rd cookie or tortilla chips. These strategies work for me 90% of the time and the rare time I overdo it, I try to learn from it and move on. Every day is a new opportunity to eat right.

Crisp Air, don't care

Let's talk Fall Fashion: Cords & Boots. It’s a good idea to wear your corduroy pants on the same schedule as you do your velvet clothing. I always gravitate towards rich jewel tones for fall, especially olive green. I bought some gorgeous berry and olive colored corduroy pants from the LOFT, they came in practically every color and is a very flattering cut!

Sugar Free Pumpkin Bread

Something about pumpkins just makes me happy and that's what distracts me from the changing of weather, all the pumpkin goodies! I scoured the internet for a healthy pumpkin bread and my first attempt used banana and applesauce and that was an epic fail. I only wanted to share a tried and true recipe that I loved. I made this delicious recipe from Elanas Pantry who specializes in gluten free cooking. The loaf came out very moist!

She subs regular flour for Almond Flour which is high protein and low in carbs. I used Trader Joe's Almond Meal, but you can use any brand except Bob's Red Mill almond flour. Almond flour is much more finely ground than almond meal is and has a more uniform consistency. Almond meal can be blanched (skins removed) or unblanched,  blanched is better quality. Almond flour can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week on the counter or for several months in the freezer. Baked goods made with almond flour taste amazing and richer than wheat based goods.  They do not taste like almonds.

Almonds are nutrient rich as they have healthy fats, high in vitamin E, potassium and magnesium.  Baked goods made with nut flours do not keep more than two or three days on the counter, maybe a week in the fridge at the most. But they freeze beautifully so you can stick whatever you're not going to eat in a day or two in the freezer and take some out everyday. 

You will need a smaller size loaf pan for this recipe or else the loaf won't rise properly. After baking, recipes made with almond flour do well to be left a few minutes and loosened carefully with a knife before turning out because the texture is generally more fragile than regular recipes made with flour. 


  • 1 cup blanched almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cloves
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons honey (a light colored one)
  • ½ teaspoon stevia
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs

  • Directions:
    1. Combine almond flour, salt, baking soda and spices in one bowl.
    2. Mix pumpkin, honey, stevia and eggs in another bowl.
    3. Slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients.
    4. Scoop batter into a mini loaf pan
    5. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes
    6. Cool for 1 hour

    Nutritional Analysis
    6 servings
    183 calories, 11g carbs, 8g protein, 12g fat, 3g fiber, 7g sugar

    vs 1 slice of Starbucks Pumpkin Bread
    390 calories, 61g carbs, 6g protein, 14g fat, 2g fiber, 38g sugar

    The second time I made this I subbed yacon syrup for the honey because it has one third of the calories, less carbs, half the sugar plus 30% of the sugar is not absorbed by your body! This made one slice of bread 170 calories, 9g carbs, and 4g of sugar. I also added sugar free chocolate chips which made it even more delicious!

    You could also replace the honey with xylitol or agave syrup.
    You can add cranberries or walnuts.
    You can substitute flaxseed or chia gel for the eggs.
    Use cardamom instead of cloves.

    The Best Vegetarian Chili You’ll Ever Taste

    I use Yves Meatless Ground as my meat substitute for this chili.  Cilantro is my secret ingredient that just makes this taste amazing! Here's an easy take to work lunch for the week, I've already pre-filled my tupperware containers so I can just grab and go in the morning. You can also add butternut squash to this recipe for a fall flavor.

    Yves meatless ground
    ½ teaspoon chili powder
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    Pinch ground cinnamon
    ½ onion, chopped 
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 carrots, diced ½ inch
    1 14-ounce can chopped whole tomatoes, with juice
    ½ chipotle pepper in adobo, seeded and chopped, with about ½ teaspoon adobo sauce

    1–15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    ½ cup chopped cilantro
    nonfat organic yogurt, for serving (optional)
    black pepper


    1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cover and cook until the onion is wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. If the onion begin to stick to the pan, add 2 tablespoons water and scrape with a wooden spoon to release.

    2. Add the Yves meatless ground and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

    3. Add the carrots, tomatoes, and chipotle pepper.

    4. Bring to a simmer; reduce the heat to low, and cook, partially covered, 25 minutes. Stir in the beans and 1/2 cup cilantro, and cook 15 more minutes.

    5. To serve, ladle into soup bowls. Top with  cilantro and a spoonful of yogurt. 

    Nutritional Analysis 
    Makes 5 servings, 203 cal, 18g protein, 10g fiber

    Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter review

    I bought this jar of lotion from Trader Joe's and it's one of the most moist and rich lotions I have ever used. It just smells amazing, like tropical paradise with the intoxicating scent of coconut! It's made with Coconut Oil, Shea Butter and Vitamin E and other natural ingredients. It's thick and creamy and absorbs into the skin almost instantly and gives good moisturization.  It doesn't have an oily feeling. It's only $5 compared to the Body Shop's coconut body butter of the same size. TJ's also has a pumpkin body butter as well!

    Portion Control

    If you want to lose weight the main factor is going to be your diet because you can't out exercise a bad diet. After you clean up what you eat and start making smart choices, the next issue is portion size. I think a lot of us don't know what is a proper portion size. Lucky for you it is written on the back of pasta packages and rice! So you don't have to give up pasta, just keep it the right portion size! Before cooking a starch or protein I always weight it in my food scale, and I just have a cheap one from bed, bath, and beyond. 

    I'm sure you see the whole wheat pasta here and think "I can't do that, I don't like the texture". Well I've tried many brands and they all taste different, some not so great. But I found that the line Trader Joe's carries tastes great. It does take a little longer to cook than white pasta, but holds longer in the fridge once cooked. If you don't have a TJs near you a couple other brands I recommend are Dreamfield  (which is low carb and a great option for diabetics), then there's Ronzoni Smart Taste which is white pasta enriched with fiber and calcium. I would have recommended Barilla Plus (which is half and half) to get you started but after reading the comments from their CEO I will be staying clear of that brand. In fair disclosure you can watch his video apology on Barilla's facebook page. Once you get into the habit of always eating whole wheat pasta and the firmer texture, you won't see much of a difference from white. 

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    Chobani Bite Review

    Greek yogurt has gained popularity lately because of it's thick creamy texture and health benefits. Earlier this year Chobani released their Bite line which comes in a four pack of 3.5 ounce cups, a smaller serving than their other lines. Each cup is 100 calories and 8 grams of protein. I tried the Mint with Dark Chocolate Chip flavor and the yogurt was white, not artificial green, with tiny shavings of chocolate in it. It tasted just like eating a Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie!!  I'd love to try their Fig with Orange Zest flavor but unfortunately that's the one flavor my grocery store doesn't carry. Here are the stats:
    100 Calories • Good Source of Protein • Only Natural Ingredients • No Artificial Flavors • No Artificial Sweeteners • No Preservatives • Made with Milk from Cows Not Treated with rBST*
    Chobani has had some controversy lately though with having to recall moldy yogurt last month and a petition asking Chobani to use GMO-free cows. Did you know Chobani has a flagship store in NYC? They make customized mix-ins creations!

    Breakfast of Champions

    pumpkin butter, avocado, mushrooms and strawberries
    Eggwhites and oatmeal are on my frequent breakfast rotation. Before I started eating these two nutrient rich breakfasts, I ate all sorts of randomness for breakfast. Bagels and cream cheese being a popular fave but really not a good choice due to the lack of protein. Here's my formula for eating eggwhites. First I only buy organic free range egg whites and always serve with a side of fruit and toast. Sometimes I eat the toast plain, or with pumpkin butter, pumpkin cream cheese, or fat free cottage cheese topped with fresh cilantro. If I have mushrooms at home I'll add it to the 3/4 cup of eggwhites. But I usually top with 1/4 an avocado, the rest of the avocado stays fresh in the fridge in tupperware for another three days. I add fresh  parmesan cheese I grate myself to the eggs which gives the egg whites flavor, but if I happen to have other cheese at home I use that but just a little. I don't season it with salt! I add celery seed, oregano, pepper, and onion powder. Depending on how you mix it up, the whole plate always comes under 300 calories with about 26g of protein. (The average bagel alone is around 300 calories with little fiber. Then add on calories from the cream cheese.) From these egg whites I make breakfast burritos as well.
    half pear and pumpkin cream cheese
    cottage cheese, mushrooms, berries

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    Shades of Grey

    and a splash of magenta (purple, not to be confused with fuchsia/pink). Another photo adventure with a friend who is working on her photography.

    The 12 Traits of the Greats

    I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Dave Martin in person when he was a guest preacher at my church and I attended his Ultimate Life Success Seminar which gave powerful wisdom. He is a Christian Success Coach and if you read my previous posts on Positive Affirmation and Working Hard on Your Goals you know that I enjoy reading books that talk about personal development. Dave wrote a fantastic book teaching principles to elevate your life. The 12 traits are: Responsibility, Mindset, Passion, Imagination, Relationships, Focus, Courage, Persistence, Integrity, Adaptability, Wisdom and Generosity. For instance he says you, and only you, are responsible for where you are in life. He says that your relationships with people are the key to your success and happiness. First step to changing your life is changing your view of yourself because that can what is holding you back from having success in life! The only reason people fail is a lack of focus in their lives.

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    Wrap Up of Pumpkin Week

    I stopped by my favorite grocery store - Trader Joe's and saw that the shelves were full of pumpkin overload! There were sugar pumpkins for baking for only $2 and lots of small decorative pumpkins in various colors. First I'll tell you what I didn't get even though I was eyeing them lol - pumpkin pop tarts, pumpkin cereal bars, pumpkin croissants, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin biscotti, and pumpkin bread mix (two kinds).

    I got a huge haul at TJs! 
    • pumpkin greek yogurt (a one time treat since its high in sugar)
    • pumpkin butter (I measure one serving when I use it)
    • cranberry apple butter (low in cal and sugar)
    • fig butter
    • pumpkin macarons
    • pumpkin cream cheese (only consuming a half serving each day at breakfast on my toast)
    • pumpkin ravioli
    • organic tuscan kale (loaded with vitamins A, C, and K, high in beta carotene, one of the world's most nutritionally dense vegetables)
    • pecan pumpkin instant oatmeal (this is super sweet and I serve it with almond milk and a half scoop of vanilla shakeology  to add more protein)
    • pumpkin frozen waffles (to be eaten with the pumpkin cream cheese)
    • coconut cashews (so addicting!)
    • butternut squash triagnoli
    • Spelt Risotto (a great hot breakfast option, it's made with smoked provolone so it tastes like it's made with ham)
    I was also excited to see that it's pear season again so I stocked up on some red anjou and asian pears.

    I took a macaron baking class once and ever since have been a sucker for this treat! I served them at my Valentine's Day party last year. Two pumpkin macarons is only 90 calories so it's not a bad treat.
    It keeps in the freezer so it's not something you can easily take out and eat the whole package since you have to defrost them.

     I wanted to close Pumpkin Week  by listing some more pumpkin foods that you shouldn't miss!

    My freezer is full of these 100 calorie muffin tops.

    I never eat at Panera Bread but heard someone raving about their Vegetarian Autumn Squash soup so I gave it a try. It's low in calories but a bit high on sugar. It was thick and delicious!!!
    Menchie's pumpkin frozen yogurt mixed with their graham cracker flavor - to die for! I like that they use milk from California cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones (rBST). I tried the pumpkin pie flavor at Fro-yo but it tasted more like cloves than pumpkin to me. Pinkberry had a sign up that their pumpkin flavor is coming soon. Random fact - the Kardashians go to the Calabasas Menchie's location often.

    DIY Pumpkin Facial Mask

    I had some leftover fresh pumpkin puree in my fridge so I decided to do a pumpkin facial mask.  Pumpkin is full of antioxidants like vitamin A, C and E, and retinoic acid, which acts as an exfoliant. They're great for those with acne or oily skin. Honey helps with acne treatment by removing impurities from pores. Milk exfoliates, due to lactic acid, and also soothes and hydrates skin. Cinnamon is an antiseptic which will help reduce the bacteria on the surface of your skin to aid in the prevention of pimples and even help dry out existing pimples. It also stimulates and revitalizes the skin by drawing blood, oxygen and nutrients to the surface of your skin, leaving your skin healthy & glowing. Surprisingly the mask didn't drip off my face and I could walk around and multitask while I waited to take it off. If there's any extra mixture left in your bowl you can eat it! Just a warning the cinnamon will make your skin tingle. 

    2 tsp of pureed pumpkin
    ½ tsp of honey
    ½ tsp of milk (skim or almond)
    ¼ tsp of cinnamon (makes it smell delicious)

    1. Mix all the ingredients together
    2. Apply the mask evenly all over your face with the back of a spoon
    3. Leave on for 15 minutes and then remove with a warm washcloth
    4. Follow up with a moisturizer