Broccoli Soup with Cashew Cream

After a gluttonous weekend or vacation, this no-fuss broccoli soup is super easy to make and the perfect cleanse. The benefits of broccoli are vast: it’s high in vitamins and fiber, rids the body of environmental pollutants, and contains sulforaphane, which aids in cancer prevention.  By blending the broccoli, this gluten-free, dairy-free soup is easily digestible and helps get your system back on track!

Ingredients:

2 heads of broccoli (roughly cut…with stems)

4-6 cups organic chicken (or vegetable) broth

2 big or 3 small shallots (roughly chopped)

1 tsp. red chili flakes

2 cups raw cashews

2 cups water

Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Toss broccoli, shallots, chili flakes, and 4 cups of broth into crockpot. Turn on low for at least 4 hours (could be longer if you are leaving it for the day!). Note: if you do not have a crockpot you can make this on the stove-top, just be sure you are home to keep an eye on it!

Place cashews in a bowl with water and allow to soak while the broccoli cooks.

After 4 hours or so, once the broccoli is cooked and wilted down, blend the soup (in stages by ladling into a blender or with a hand bender in the pot) and add more broth as needed depending on the consistency you’d like to achieve.

Blend the soaked cashews with a pinch of salt adding more water if needed to achieve a creamy texture.

Serve soup in a bowl with a large dollop of cashew cream on top. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Eat as much as you want!

Want to Get Stronger? Focus on the Eccentric Motion in Exercises.

More often than not I witness people speeding through body weight and dumbbell exercising with a primary focus on the concentric action, or the contraction part, of the exercise, like the curling motion in a basic bicep curl. While this does make you stronger initially, often times the muscular changes will plateau and leave you feeling stuck in a rut. There is, however, an easy fix! Slow down and focus on the eccentric actions of the exercises

What does eccentric action mean?

The eccentric action is when the muscle(s) being worked lengthen in the exercise movement, rather than shorten or contract. Take the basic bicep curl for example, the lowering of the weights back to the start position is the eccentric action as it is lengthening the bicep muscles.

How can focusing on the eccentric action make you stronger?

There is substantial evidence that muscle damage caused by working out induces hypertrophy, an increase in muscle size. In essence, you have to “damage” or tear your muscles to rebuild them bigger and better. As such, eccentric actions are beneficial in that the motion of lengthening the muscle while loaded (with body weight or dumbbells for instance) is primarily responsible for creating muscle damage tears and soreness, thus yielding more opportunity for muscle growth.

How can you focus on the eccentric action?

It’s easy! Try focusing on the eccentric action of these two basic body weight movements in at least one workout per week and see if you notice any changes.

Eccentric Push-ups

To focus on the eccentric motion in a push-up, lower very slowly!

To focus on the eccentric motion in a push-up, lower very slowly!

-       Start in a high plank with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. Pull your belly in and find full body engagement.

-       Slowly lower down (option to use your knees!) by bending your elbows to the count of 4, 3, 2, 1.  Try to get your chest all the way to the ground on 1. Remember to breathe!

-       Exhale through your mouth to explosively and quickly press back up to the plank position.

-       Do 3 sets of 5-10 reps.

Eccentric Squats

To focus on the eccentric motion in a squat, lower very slowly!

To focus on the eccentric motion in a squat, lower very slowly!

-       Start standing with your legs about shoulder-width and slightly point your toes out.

-       Weight into your heels, bend your knees, and sit your hips back to slowly lower down to the count of 4,3,2,1. Get as low as you can on 1. Breathe!

-       Exhale through your mouth to explosively and quickly stand back up.

-       Do 3 sets of 12-15.

Short on time to exercise? Try these yoga-based compound movements!

Life is busy. Fitting in a daily workout may feel impossible, but you can still effectively workout when pressed for time by using compound movements. A compound, or multijoint, exercise uses two or more primary joints to target multiple muscles simultaneously thus producing a substantial training result. Think about the difference between doing a standing dumbbell bicep curl (yawn!) verses doing a squat to bicep curl (way more bang for your buck!).

As a yoga instructor and certified personal trainer, I love to combine yoga poses with weight lifting exercises for a fun and efficient twist on compound movements to activate your core, upper body, and lower body.

Grab some dumbbells (3 – 8 lbs. should do it) and try these moves. Do 10-12 reps of each on the right side and then repeat starting from the top on the left side.

Click here to watch a quick video of all of the below compound exercises!

Squat with Tricep Kickbacks

-       Stand with your feet hip-width distance.

-       Hold your weights with palms facing together and squeeze your elbows behind you.

-       Inhale: Squat low.

-       Exhale: Stand up and kick your weights back by squeezing your shoulder blades.

-       Tip: Move slowly with control to avoid swinging the weights back and forth.

Crescent Lunge with Reverse Grip Bicep Rows

-       Come to a Crescent Lunge with your right foot forward and left foot back. Make sure your right knee stacks directly over your right ankle.

-       Hold your weights with palms facing up.

-       Inhale: Bend your back knee to hover off the ground and extend your arms out in front of your chest.

-       Exhale: Extend your back leg and row your elbows straight back by squeezing your shoulder blades.

-       Tip: Keep your right (front) knee bent the entire time and focus on only bending and extending your back leg.

Warrior II with Half-Lat Pulls

-       Start in Warrior II with your right leg forward. Bend your right knee to stack directly over your ankle and ground your back, left heel.

-       Extend your arms out to the sides and face your palms forward.

-       Inhale: Stay in the Warrior II position.

-       Exhale: Straighten your right leg to stand and squeeze your shoulder blades to pull your elbows behind you.

-       Tip: When your arms extend, maintain a slight bend to your elbows and keep the weights in line with your shoulders.

Horse Squats with Cross Body Punches

-       Get into Horse with your feet wider than your shoulders and angle your toes out.

-       Press your weights together at your chest.

-       Inhale: Squat lower.

-       Exhale: Stand and pivot to the ball of your right foot to punch your right weight across your body to the left.

-       Inhale: Squat in center.

-       Exhale: Stand and pivot to the ball of your left foot to punch your left weight across your body to the right.

-       Tip: Bend your knees in the direction of your toes in the squat and be sure to pivot to the ball of your foot before taking the punch.

 

The Kick-Start Morning Routine: Green Smoothie (Blog 3 of 3)

Warning: If you are looking for advice on how to implement a mediation and journaling session into your morning routine before gleefully lacing up your running shoes and skipping out the door for a refreshing 5-mile run before getting ready for work…you probably want to read another blog.  As a self -proclaimed “healthy person” even I have limits, especially first thing in the morning. This is real advice for real people that want to be healthier in a realistic manner.  Being that it is not my intention to overwhelm you, this is a three-part blog with achievable steps to ease you into the morning routine.

Alas we arrive at the final installment of the kick-start morning routine. How did you like the coffee from last week? Did you notice any changes in your cognitive or physical faculties? Keep drinking the Lemon Water 2.0 and Coffee 2.0 every morning!

The last beverage is a green smoothie. This nutrient rich recipe can be adjusted to your tastes (just keep the sugar level low), and gently awakens your digestive system after a nightly fast. With evening prep, it provides an easy on-the-go breakfast.

I love kale so much it was even the theme of our wedding. Flowers by Gather Design. Photo by Sparkfly Photography.

I love kale so much it was even the theme of our wedding. Flowers by Gather Design. Photo by Sparkfly Photography.

When I teach early yoga classes or workout, I drink the smoothie plus eat 1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs (made in a big batch on Sunday) to up my protein and vitamin intake.  If you are still on the egg white train and avoiding egg yolks, please watch this and get back to eating whole eggs!

Here are the smoothie steps:

Week 3: Green Smoothie

The prep work:

1.     Go shopping and stock up on the following:

·      Blender.

·      Any blender will do, but if you are in need of an easy, reasonably priced, on-the-go blender try a NutriBullet or Nutri Ninja.

·      Organic, power greens: kale, spinach, chard, etc.

·      Many stores (Costco, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, etc.) sell ”Power Green” mixes or you can stock up on a variety of greens to mix and match.

·      Buy multiple bags at a time and freeze them to always have on hand… our freezer is stuffed with greens!

·      Organic, frozen berries: blueberries, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, etc.

·      Stick with berries as they tend to be lower in sugar than many fruits.

·      Like the greens, stock up and freeze.

·      Pick 2 -3 supplemental fat, protein, and fiber options. Play around with these to try different flavor combinations.  

·      Almond butter (no sugar added)

·      Avocado

·      Hemp hearts

·      Chia Seeds

·      Flax Seeds (pre-ground if available)

·      If you want to splurge: A high-quality, non-dairy, non-soy, plant-based protein powder like one from Garden of Life or Vega.

·      Almond, coconut, or hemp milk. 

·      Read the ingredients and select a milk without sugar and carrageenan.

Every night:

1. Prep your smoothie by tossing all of the ingredients, except the liquid, in the blender and leave it in the fridge overnight.

·      2 – 3 cups/handfuls of power greens.

·      ½ cup of berries.

·      In the beginning you may add more berries for taste purposes, but overtime reduce the berries to about ½ cup to limit the sugar intake. Yes, while fruit does have many benefits, it is still sugar.

·      2 - 3 of the following:

·      1 (heaping) Tbsp. Almond butter

·      ½ Avocado

·      1 Tbsp. Hemp hearts

·      1 Tbsp. Chia seeds

·      1 Tbsp. Flax seeds

·      1 Scoop Protein powder

Every morning:

1. Get the prepped smoothie out of the fridge and add the liquid.

·      Mix your choice of non-dairy milk and water for a 50/50 split.

·      Amount of liquid varies per blender and how viscous you want your smoothie.

2.     Blend and transfer to a to-go vessel if needed. Enjoy!

·      It may be slightly less tasty than smoothies loaded with sugar, but you will get used to it and your body will thank you for leaving out the sugar!

Now add this smoothie into your morning routine of Lemon Water 2.0 and Coffee 2.0 and stick with it all until this becomes a habit…at least during the week because who doesn’t love weekend brunch?  Cheers to your health!

The Kick-Start Morning Routine: Coffee 2.0 (Blog 2 of 3)

Warning: If you are looking for advice on how to implement a mediation and journaling session into your morning routine before gleefully lacing up your running shoes and skipping out the door for a refreshing 5-mile run before getting ready for work…you probably want to read another blog.  As a self -proclaimed “healthy person” even I have limits, especially first thing in the morning. This is real advice for real people that want to be healthier in a realistic manner.  Being that it is not my intention to overwhelm you, this is a three-part blog with achievable steps to ease you into the morning routine.

Welcome back! How did implementing the Lemon Water 2.0 into your morning routine go? Keep at it. Habits take time to incorporate. Eventually, you will crave the lemon water when you wake up and notice how dehydrating it feels not to have it.

The second beverage in this morning routine is probably closer to what you already drink upon waking up and, hopefully, it is an easy upgrade.

Coffee.jpeg

Coffee 2.0 is simply coffee blended with coconut oil. If you’ve heard of Bullet Proof Coffee, this is an easier, less expensive, more realistic version, but if you feel motivated to make the “real version” more power to you.

Not only does Coffee 2.0 taste and feel like you are drinking a frothy, fancy coffee it has ample benefits due to coconut oil’s micronutrients and medium-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil improves brain function, fights inflammation, controls hunger, improves energy and, as I once read and thought it to be hilariously accurate, “lubes the tube” to keep you regular.

After consistently drinking Lemon Water 2.0 and Coffee 2.0 every morning, I can personally attest to the benefits. I’ve noticed a vast improvement in my mental clarity (which helps when you have to guide a room of yoga students at 6:00am), steadiness of my blood sugar levels (coming from someone that is hypoglycemic and will faint if not appropriately nourished), and regularity of my systems (I can almost feel my proper British husband cringing because I’ve publically mentioned bowel movements this many times, but it is a crucial component to being healthy, honey).

Here are the steps…

Week 2: Coffee 2.0

The prep work:

1.     Go shopping and stock up on the following:

·      Cold-pressed, virgin, unrefined, organic coconut oil.

·      Coffee

Every morning after consuming your Lemon Water 2.0:

1.     Put 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil in the blender (you can also do this the night before so it is ready to go in the morning!).

·      If you really don’t like the taste of the spice blend (turmeric, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon) in your lemon water you could try adding it to the coffee before blending instead.

2.     Add 8-12 oz. of coffee.

3.     Blend for 10 seconds to emulsify.

·      You could skip the blender and just stir in the coconut oil, but be prepared for the oil to stay separated from the coffee.

4.     Pour and enjoy!

Get in the habit of drinking your Lemon Water 2.0 and Coffee 2.0 every morning for this next week. Be aware of how you feel and any changes that may occur. 

Next week we’ll add the final beverage!

The Kick-Start Morning Routine: Lemon Water 2.0 (Part 1 of 3)

adding turmeric, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon to your morning lemon water will help you re-hydrate, fight inflammation, jump-start your metabolism, and balance blood sugar levels.

adding turmeric, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon to your morning lemon water will help you re-hydrate, fight inflammation, jump-start your metabolism, and balance blood sugar levels.

Disclaimer: If you are looking for advice on how to implement a mediation and journaling session into your morning routine before gleefully lacing up your running shoes and skipping out the door for a refreshing 5-mile run before getting ready for work…you probably want to read another blog.  As a self-proclaimed “healthy person” even I have limits, especially first thing in the morning. This is real advice for real people that want to be healthier in a realistic manner. Being that it is not my intention to overwhelm you, this is a three-part blog with achievable steps to ease you into the morning routine. 

Depending on the day my alarm sounds between 5:00am and 6:00am. I hurl myself out of bed into the dark frigidness while my dog groans in annoyance and reshuffles to a more comfortable sleep position. Even the dog thinks it is too early. I am not a morning person. My self-pitying inner voice tries to lure me back into an endless cycle of snoozing and, although very tempting, I consider my husband who has already left the house at 4:15am and my early-rising yoga students that await and drag myself to the bathroom to start my trusted morning ritual.

Here’s the gist: If I, the adult woman that would blissfully sleep until noon if left to her own devices, can do this routine every morning at 0-dark-thirty, then so can you.

I swear by this routine and the three beverages it entails as a way to rehydrate after water loss during sleep, wake-up your systems, stave off hunger, feed your brain, and stay regular.

Side note: If you are not having a regular bowel movement at least once (if not twice) a day you need to get things moving, literally, with proper nutrition and hydration. Fake fiber is not the answer. This routine will help!

Part 1: Lemon Water 2.0

The prep work:

1.     Go shopping and stock up on the following:

·      Lemons (Benefits of Drinking Warm Lemon Water in the Morning)

·      In the bulk spice section (organic if possible): 

· Turmeric (Benefits of Turmeric)

· Cayenne Pepper (Benefits of Cayenne Pepper)

· Cinnamon (Benefits of Cinnamon)

2.     Mix equal parts turmeric, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon in a mason jar.

Every morning:

1.     Upon waking, brush your teeth and tongue to get rid of the nightly bacteria build-up. If you really want to go for it scrape your tongue, but you know, baby steps.

2.     In a large glass mix:

·      1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mixture. It is strong so make sure it is a large glass! (Save time by doing this step at night so it is ready to go in the morning!)

·      Juice of a whole lemon

·      Warm water

3.     Drink up!

·      I typically refill the glass with warm water to wash down the first round and ensure that I’m starting the day hydrated.

Get in the habit of drinking your Lemon Water 2.0 every morning and notice how you feel!

Next week we’ll add on with Coffee 2.0. 

How to Access A.I.M. Health Classes

The very first A.I.M. Health videos are up now!

Follow the below step-by-step instructions on how to access the videos. Please note that the first four steps will only need to be completed once during the initial set-up.

1.     Click here (or the “Video Workouts” button on A.I.M. Health’s main page) to access Namastream’s (our video host site) landing page: https://app.namastream.com/aimhealth/

2.     Create an account with Namastream.

3.     Check your email for a link from Namastream to activate your account.

4.     Login and complete your information. Note that ALL of your information must be entered before submitting.

5.     You’ll be sent to browse the shop.

6.     Choose the product you would like to view and click “View Product.” *

7.     Click the “Register” button.

8.     Click the “Register Product” button.

9.     Hit “Click Here to Access Your Purchase.”

10.  Select “View Product” and you are good to go!

·      Videos (“Products”) currently available as of 1/3/17:

o   Intro to Power Vinyasa Yoga: a FREE, 30 minute sample class for all-levels.

o   Demos: 3 tutorials on some fundamental aspects you’ll see in A.I.M. Health classes. Highly recommended prior to taking our classes!

Welcome to A.I.M. Health!

Having taught yoga and fitness for over 6 years, people often approach me for advice on how to maintain a disciplined exercise routine and healthy lifestyle despite the obstacles they face: 9-to-5 jobs that are impossible to clock out of due to mobile technology, babies and kids that require constant supervision, hefty travel schedules that wear on energy levels and limit healthy choices, and any other number of adulthood’s endless duties that leave you feeling drained at the end of the day and more likely to sit on the couch and eat take-out than go to yoga and cook a healthy meal.

The inquires started rolling in on a steady basis: “How can I workout if I travel for work?” “How am I going to find time for yoga once I have the baby?” “What do you eat when you travel?” “I’m doing everything, but why can’t I lose weight?” “Why do I feel tired all of the time, even when I get sleep?” “How do I reduce my ever present anxiety?”

The truth is I can empathize with many of these struggles because I have (and sometimes still do) experience them, but I’ve also spent years educating myself on how to overcome them.

So, I started recommending what has worked for me: I’ve written countless workouts for friends and family that travel, recommended books and articles on nutrition, shared recipes, given tips on how to combat anxiety and more. The results were so overwhelmingly positive that the idea for A.I.M. Health was born.

As the New Year commences, A.I.M. Health is ready to bring you online yoga classes and workouts as well as a variety of health tips so you can get on the path to overall well-being, even with life’s many demands.

Get ready by taking a few minutes today to check out the following mini-demonstrations on some elements you will find in A.I.M. Health classes and workouts. Please note that you will need to create an account with Namastream, our video host, to view the demos! https://app.namastream.com/aimhealth/463

Sample classes to follow!

Cheers to a happy and healthy year!

Alison Ives Marra