February’s Tiny Change: Eat More Plants

*This post is part of Kale and Chocolate’s year-long #12tinychanges challenge. Each month, we’re implementing one small, super doable change-over a year it really adds up! Read about all changes here and share your progress on Instagram with the hashtag #12tinychanges!

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You’ve probably heard about the health benefits associated with eating a plant-based diet, like reducing your risk of heart disease, lowering your blood pressure, and adding years to your life. Food experts, nutritionists, and dietitians may disagree about the right diet, but amidst these debates, they have always been able to agree on at least one thing: MORE PLANTS = GOOD.

This month’s tiny change is just that – tiny. No need to cut foods out, restrict, or diet. Simply add more plant-based foods and recipes to your cooking repertoire. If you’re already eating a largely plant-based diet, wonderful! Try something new and interesting like DIY nut milk. If you’ve yet to dip your toe into plant-based cooking, start easy with something like chia seed pudding.

You don’t have to eat less or cut out anything. Just add more vibrant colors, nutrients, and variety to your meals. If a few of those delectable plant-based dishes happen to replace the less-than-healthy ones in your repertoire, that’s just a bonus! So what constitutes “plant-based,” exactly? Great question! Fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, and oils are all fair game – all things that originally stem from plants (pun intended!)

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Here are five ways you can make this tiny change easy and awesome!

1. Incorporate these plant-based foods into the way you already eat

The best thing about plant-based foods? You can fold them into absolutely any eating style – they’re totally inclusive! Eating Paleo? Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Locavore or seasonal eater? Great, simply add more plants to your daily routine!

2. View this as an opportunity to experiment with new recipes + types of food
Consider this a little nudge to explore new recipes or make reservations at a new restaurant. Asian, Indian, and Ethiopian cuisines include lots of plant-based dishes, many featuring interesting spices and flavor combinations. Give them all a try!

Instead of trying to plant-i-fy existing dishes, why not try something totally different? We’re much more likely to enjoy a recipe (and make it again) if we eat it with an open mind…rather than thinking “this was much better when I made it with a whole stick of butter…” This tiny change gives you the perfect excuse to push yourself toward easy experimentation and more adventurous eating.

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3. Know that this isn’t just about smoothies and salads
Gotta love a good green smoothie, but there are tons of luscious, decadent plant-based foods out there. In fact, if you want to try just one new plant-based recipe a week this month, how about some delicious oatmeal, hummuscookies, PB & J, sweet chocolate avocado mousse, and even ice cream?! Plant dishes can be sweet, savory, warm, chilled, and satisfy just about any craving!

4. Swap in one plant-based dish for one meat or dairy dish

Rather than overhauling your entire meal, try just swapping one dish. Munch on a batch of homemade veggie burgers and sweet potato fries for your Friday night Netflix marathon or warm up with butternut squash soup for meatless Monday. Whip up a balanced meal, use DIY nut milk in your smoothie or make guacamole instead of french onion dip. Just one tiny swap at a time; you’ll be amazed how easy it is to eat more plants!

5. Choose plant-based dishes when you’re eating out or grocery shopping

Now, you know I’m a huge advocate of DIY-ing, but most of us are short on time and long on obligations. Who among us hasn’t picked up dinner on the way home from a hectic day?

Remember, there are a surprising number of plant-based options at your local grocery store, and maybe even your favorite restaurant. Grab a tub of guac, baba ganoush, hummus or even black bean dip. Check out the salad bar for freshly prepared veggies, grains, and plant-based proteins to add to a bed of greens.

When you’re eating out, soups, salads, and vegetarian entrees are often plant-based, (and delicious) so give it a try. To help kickoff this tiny change, you could win amazing prizes and tools to fill up your plate with as many colors and nutrients as possible. You’ll be amazed by how simple it is to eat more plants. And the best part? This easy, delicious tiny change can set you on the road to a healthier heart, longer life, and happier body!

One Healthy Breakdown: Crack open you cookbooks and get ready to veg out!

A Weekend of Waves, Warmth, and Warriors

So, the past few weeks have been pretty tough. Bitter without the sweet. Long, cold frozen, windy, sniffly, snowy, slippery, and overall, pretty darn miz. Mother Nature just won’t budge. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love the Hamptons year round, but it’s about that time when I can totally understand how others migrate south for some sun, warmth, and beauty. Luckily, I totally got my fix of all of the above this weekend, right in our own backyard thanks to lululemon athletica East Hampton, three of the best lululemon ambassador yogis on Long Island, and Gurney’s Montauk.

IMG_0274The drive out to Montauk (sans traffic!) was decompressing in itself, but knowing that a weekend of yoga bliss lay ahead was even better. As we unrolled our mats in the Great Room, with the sun shining through the windows and waves crashing down at the beach, I quickly began to defrost and fill with warmth and gratitude.

The first of three classes on Saturday morning was taught by Lana Russo, lululemon ambassador at the Manhasset store. The class was pretty much exactly what I personally seek when signing up for a yoga class: a combination of feel-good stretching, challenging poses to push outside of the comfort zone, and a relaxing meditation. Lana does it all with a seamless flow, a warm heart, and some non-traditional yoga music. We’re talking a yoga-remix of Katy Perry’s “Roar” and such – what’s more fun than that?! Lana makes yoga more accessible to all levels as she breaks down advanced poses into manageable steps. Here’s Lana below, being the yogi rockstar that she is:

FullSizeRender(16)The second class, rounding out Saturday morning’s practice, was taught by Evelyn O’Doherty, local yoga teacher, SUP racer/instructor, lululemon EH ambassador, and friendly face we all know and love (if you don’t know Evelyn, you should.) It’s impossible not to get stronger during Evelyn’s class; her light-hearted style benefits all walks of life and all types of athletes. She has this amazing ability to make anyone smile, even when instructing challenging poses, burning abdominal exercises, and “hanging out” in plank. Evelyn’s smile always reminds us, that no matter what, it’s all going to be A ok. Here’s Evelyn practicing a playful, yet perfect, inversion:

FullSizeRender(17)After two and a half hours of Vinyasa Flow, Saturday afternoon was free for our choosing. I followed the crowd to the Seawater Spa and fell even deeper into ‘vacation mode as I sat by the Seawater Pool in my bikini, robe, and flip-flops. While it took some imagination, Montauk in February quickly became my own personal island retreat. I soaked up the goodness and sailed away into Shavasana…for the third time that day.

Saturday evening wrapped up with a Yin Yoga class taught by Angela Williams-Jones, owner of Flower Power Yoga and lululemon Ambassador at the Walt Whitman store. Lucky for me, Angela’s mat was next to mine during the morning classes, so I knew that whatever came next, there would be laughter and love. Yin is a restorative practice full of therapeutic poses to cleanse, balance, and regulate the body. Poses are held for at least a few minutes to increase circulation, enhance immunity, improve flexibility, maintain focus, and deconstruct emotion. Typically, Vinyasa produces discomfort the longer we’re in the pose; however, I found that Yin was just the opposite. At first, the poses were awkward and uncomfortable, but the longer we settled in, the better it got, especially knowing we were cleansing all of our major organs and systems of the body. Although I was exhausted, mentally and physically, after Saturday’s three classes, I couldn’t wait to get back to the mat the next day for more adventure with these amazing people.

Sunday morning’s class confirmed that Angela is so not your typical yoga teacher and this class was definitely not your typical yoga class. The Yoga Fusion Flow class took us through a series of songs, poses, emotions, stages, transitions, and experiences, some recognizably familiar and others new and different. That’s life, right? Just when we think we’ve mastered it, just when we become accustomed to the journey, just when we’ve settled in or fallen head over heels, we’re reminded that life is an ever-changing journey. Good or bad, things shift, we react, we sway, we readjust, shake it off, and keep going, hopefully with a big smile, a full heart, and possibly our yoga mat. Click here to see a quick clip of Angela’s heart-warming class!

580301_485743748146028_1073937593_nThis weekend was just that for me – a reminder that life is ever-changing, growing, supporting, experiencing, and full of love and opportunity. Not only did Gurney’s provide a rejuvenating escape, but I found that my personal yoga practice grew more in these two days than ever before. Stepping outside of my comfort zone on the mat came easily thanks to the three amazing ambassador yogis supporting us, teaching us, and making it all fun and playful. Thanks to lululemon athletica East Hampton, yogis Evelyn, Lana, and Angela, and Gurney’s Montauk for providing exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. Namaste!

picstitch(26)One Healthy Breakdown: When I drove into Montauk on Saturday, it was winter. When I left on Sunday, spring was in the air. Now that’s magic.

Let’s Have a Heart-to-Heart

February is American Heart Month and we’re celebrating with awareness, join us won’t you?! Heart disease is scary stuff. We hear about cancer on a daily basis, but do you know what causes heart disease, a leading cause of death, and how to best prevent it? Let’s have a little heart-to-heart…

heart1. DON’T SMOKE! Tobacco, nicotine, and carbon monoxide in cigarettes are a triple threat for heart disease. The good news is that upon quitting, risk decreases immediately.

2. Eat healthy. Less red meat, more vegetables and lean protein. Less sugar, more fruit. Less white flour, more whole grains. Less salt, more herbs and spices. Although maintaining a healthy weight is optimal, weight does not necessarily correlate with health. Click here for some helpful nutrition tips.

3. Exercise. Daily. What strengthens the heart? Getting the heart pumping! Schedule regular workouts you enjoy and move more throughout the day by walking, taking the stairs, etc. Exercise and healthy eating are often far more effective than medication in promoting heart health.

4. Go to the doctor. Be sure to get your blood, blood pressure, and cholesterol checked regularly to stay on top of any risk factors.

One Healthy Breakdown: unlike other diseases, heart disease is very preventable. Yet another reason to make some healthy changes TODAY.

February HUGS Challenge

Get ready to hug it out this month! Print, pin, or save this calendar and HUG your way right through the shortest month of the year! A hug is done from the side plank position. Bend top arm under body, hold for one second, and return upright. Repeat according to the day and then do the same on the other side. Once the number of hugs becomes more than 16, you may start dividing your hugs into sets if need be. Share with your family and friends to spread the love…and the burn! You’ll feel these throughout your core: abs, obliques, shoulders, and more…enjoy!

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One Healthy Breakdown: brought to you with love, these hugs may burn!