Just over three weeks ago I gave birth to my first child, Beckett Harrison House. It was an amazing experience and thought I would share my experience giving birth naturally as I know it is not the most popular option, and is often viewed as something horrific and unthinkable for many. I certainly would never judge people who choose to have medical interventions and can completely understand why one would opt for an epidural, as the pain in labor is unbearable at times. In writing this post, I figured there must be some people out there who might be interested in hearing a little about my journey. I hope that for anyone wanting to give birth naturally, my story will help you realize that you absolutely can.

My labor was approximately twelve hours from start to finish. I was told that is a fairly short labor for a first time mother – it felt even shorter because I was already dilated to 5 cm when I got to the hospital (you have to get to 10 cm in order to push the baby out). I was not at the hospital for the first four hours and the labor was fairly easy; I could carry on a conversation, only having to stop when a contraction would come, about every five and a half minutes. Contractions would last about a minute at most. My guess is most women experience this stage of labor at home and feel the same way – that this stage of labor is uncomfortable but manageable. Once we got to the hospital, contractions began to get a little closer but not much more intense. I was able to play a game on my iPhone (love Bejeweled!) in between contractions and could move into different positions to make the contractions a little less painful. I would squat, sit on my giant exercise ball that I brought with me, kneeled on all fours, etc…it was definitely helpful to be able to move around. In most countries women give birth in many different positions and not laying flat on their backs. Laying flat forces the body to work against gravity and therefore makes labor more uncomfortable and difficult.

From hour six to eight, labor began to get more intense; contractions were becoming more painful and I was having shorter breaks in between. At that point, I had my mom holding one hand and Karl, my husband, holding the other. They were amazing coaches who gave me the encouragement and strength I needed to get through each contraction. Thank goodness our bodies are given the gift of breaks in between contractions to make labor bearable. I used those breaks to mentally prepare me for the next one. I wish I could tell you that this point was as painful as it was going to get…but it wasn’t.

At about hour eight of labor my water broke and labor intensity jumped to a whole new level; there were only tiny breaks in between contractions and the pressure that accompanied each contraction became incredibly intense. The tiny breaks, however, were just enough to allow me to regroup and stay focused on getting through this stage of labor. I never got to the place where I was serious about taking the drugs but it definitely crossed my mind, as this point would be my last opportunity to ask for them. I just kept reminding myself that I had made it this far and in no time, the pain would come to an end and an amazing gift would be waiting for me.

By hour eleven of labor, I had made it through the worst of it and it was time to wait for the doctor to come so I could push. Despite what I had heard, pushing was actually not painful and felt a bit relieving! I was very lucky that I only had to push about twenty to thirty minutes and had very little pain accompanying it. It was a very surreal experience pushing another life out of my body and into the world around me and felt very much like a dream. Beckett came out with eyes wide open and we shared a natural high that I had heard would be my reward for giving birth naturally. It was absolutely worth it.

I think the best part of giving birth naturally was the recovery process. I was in very little pain (I only took a couple of Motrin the first two days) and felt very alert and ready to bond with my baby. Beckett also seemed to be very responsive and awake as well which made our time together those first hours even more incredible.

Giving birth naturally was not easy. It was not pleasant. If your pregnancy has no complications, it is definitely doable and if you are thinking about doing it, know that you definitely can. Women have been giving birth for centuries without drugs, and their tolerance for pain was not any higher than ours. Below is a list of things that helped me make it through the process (which may come in handy, drugs or not!):

  • Karl and I took a “Bradley method” natural childbirth class where Karl successfully learned how to be a fantastic coach as well as what to expect in labor.
  • I packed lots of hydrating liquids including water, coconut water and Recharge (a natural Gatorade type drink) and drank liquids nonstop from the time labor began in hour one. I really believe this was a HUGE help.
  • I forced myself to eat a large meal before leaving for the hospital and also brought snacks to eat during labor. Though I was not hungry (and they don’t really want you to eat at the hospital in labor either) I knew that having the energy to get through labor was imperative and forced myself to eat small snacks such as an energy bar, a hard boiled egg and fruit.
  • I brought my giant exercise ball which was great for using during labor as well as a homeopathic “icy hot” type lotion called Sombra to relieve the muscle pain (great to have for aches and pains in general!). I had Karl rub some on a couple of times and it really helped alleviate the low back pain.
  • Having my iPhone was a great distraction when I was still in the earlier part of labor and had hours to go. Bring something to do to help the time pass when the pain isn’t too severe.
  • I asked to only have intermittent monitoring (they check the baby’s heart rate just once an hour instead of constantly) so I could freely move around for most of labor which was really great so that I could get into more comfortable positions such as squatting, sitting on my ball, etc…

I hope that no matter how you choose to give birth, you have a healthy and uncomplicated delivery.

Written by Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

Beckett’s photograph taken by BeautiesandBabies.com

Recently I was asked to write posts for an awesome new health food company called, NatureBox. NatureBox offers a monthly subscription program that provides you with a monthly box full of healthy snack foods to enjoy between meals. Some of the snacks include: trail mix, granola, nuts and dried fruits and they are made with simple, natural ingredients. The company delivers these healthy snacks to people around the country that may not have easy access to natural food stores such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc…or for those who like the convenience of having great snacks sent directly to their doorstep each month.

What we snack on makes all the difference in our health. It’s important to eat often to keep blood sugar levels constant (rather than spiking and dropping) but what we eat for snacks is equally important. Rather than reaching for the salty potato chips or afternoon pastry, try to grab something that adds nutritional benefits to your day.

So, in honor of my new relationship with NatureBox, here are some of my favorite snacks – please share yours too, as we can all use more healthy ideas:

  • Avocado on toast or rice cakes (with or without butter): This is one of my favorites. It’s fast to make, super tasty and full of healthy fat.
  • Hummus and cut up raw veggies, and/or rice crackers (I also love buying a fresh olive tapenade at my farmer’s market to eat with veggies or crackers)
  • Cheese and crackers (I love goat cheddar but there are so many to choose from!)
  • A healthy bowl of plain cereal such as puffed brown rice with your favorite milk (watch out for the ones that have sugar and preservatives such as BHT)
  • Celery sticks (or apple slices) with your favorite nut butter (almond, cashew, peanut, sunflower all make great ones!) Create “Ants on a log” with some raisins, too!
  • Homemade or store-bought trail mix; I love to make my own as so many of the ones on the market are either filled with sugar or salt so I mix the following ingredients in a glass jar:                                                                                                                   Raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, cacao, coconut flakes, goji berries, mulberries, goldenberries (for the berries, I use the pre-made bag by Navitas from Whole Foods) and raisins. Sprinkle in some sea salt and you’ve got a yummy, healthy, antioxidant-rich trail mix that you can stash in your car or purse when you need a quick pick me up!
  • Any nuts and seeds make a great snack all on their own, too!
  • Yogurt and cottage cheese also make for an easy, protein-rich snack, too!
  • Deli meat (I prefer turkey) on rice cakes or bread with fresh basil and tomato (and your favorite mustard or cheese if you like)…yum!
  • Protein shakes are always easy and filling and can be made (I love ordering them at my gym)
  • Hard-boiled eggs –make a batch at the beginning of the week (I find boiling for 8 minutes is perfect if you don’t want them completely cooked through)
  • Healthy energy snack bars for on the go: I wrote an entire post on the best ones out there. Check it out for some ideas: Finding the Perfect Energy Bar

Happy snacking!

Written by Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

ImageAs my journey as a first time pregnant lady is quickly coming to a close, I thought it would be only appropriate to dedicate this post to the inappropriate things people have said to me throughout my pregnancy. Truth be told, I was forewarned by many mommy friends about what people might say or do along the way so I really have been able to take it all with a grain of salt. And the fact that I have had an extremely healthy and easy pregnancy keeps the extra weight gain and the interesting comments along the way easy to endure because what really matters is that I have put the baby’s health first. So, if you are someone who has said any of these things to me along the way, not to worry – I am not damaged by it and in fact thank you for giving me the inspiration to write a post about it.

But for the many women out there who have had your feelings hurt or felt like you were the only ones to experience embarrassment, shame or anything uncomfortable or unpleasant from what someone has said to you while your hormones are raging and your belly is growing, I am hoping this might give you a little chuckle and help you realize that you definitely weren’t the only one to experience it.

And for those of you who didn’t know there are things that shouldn’t be said to pregnant women, now you know!

Fellow mommies and mommies-to-be, please add your stories and quotes, too, so we can all have a good laugh and educate those that didn’t know they were being inappropriate when they said them!

“How much weight have you gained?” 

This is definitely one of the most common questions I was asked throughout my pregnancy. What is especially amazing is that some of the people who have asked me are MEN!!!! Now guys and gals, would you ever ask someone who isn’t pregnant how much weight they have gained? What makes you think someone who is pregnant wants to answer that question any more than someone who is not? We may be growing babies but we are also acutely aware that other things are growing as well and get the constant reminder every time we stand on the scale at the doctors. I’ll just say it isn’t my most favorit time of the day to find out just how much more weight I have to get back off after the baby comes and I definitely prefer not to broadcast it around. And Moms, you should know better, too! Coming from ex-pregnant people just makes it feel like you are asking competitively, as if you are judging me on how well I controlled my potato chip and ice cream cravings. So bottom line no matter who you are…DON’T ASK!

“Are you sure you aren’t having twins?”

This one is an oldie but goodie that I have heard women complain about time and time again.  Not only do we have the pleasure of feeling unusually large, by asking this you are pointing out to us that we LOOK unusually large. Believe me, the doctor checks to see if there are twins. We know. DON’T ASK!

“Wow! You must be due any day now!”

I love how so many people seem to be such experts on judging when a woman is due based on the way she looks. I have had this said to me more than once as early as two or three months ago.  If you didn’t know this already people, now you do…women carry all different ways and in many different sizes! There is no way to know when someone is due just by looking at them!

Oh from the way your face looks, you must be having a girl”.

What I gathered this grocery checkout woman meant by this is…“Oh because your face is looking puffy, you must be having a girl”. Nope. It’s a boy. But thanks so much for pointing out that my face has become even more rounded than it already is.

Others in the same vein…

“Oh you have more pimples than usual, you must be having a girl”.

“Oh wow. You used to just have a little belly. Now you’ve filled out EVERYWHERE!”

“I can’t believe you still fit in your old pants…oh, but they are spandex after all!”

“You are already so big…you’re gonna get HUGE!”

“Can I touch your belly?”

The only people who asked me this one were people I knew well so I didn’t have a problem with it (and had no problem with the belly touching) but apparently many women get asked by strangers and it is a problem. It’s an awkward question because it puts women on the spot if they are uncomfortable with you touching their belly. Unless you know her really well, I would say DON’T ASK!

“Are your twins IVF babies?”

This one I can’t take credit for but can’t believe people have asked my dear friend who has all natural, identical twin boys, if they are IVF babies. It is really nobody’s business how someone gets pregnant and someone who has had to have help medically to produce most likely is sensitive about it already. They do NOT want to share with the world that they struggled. DON’T ASK!  If they want to share that information, they will!

“Are you done after this one? How many children will you have?”

Though this question doesn’t particularly bother me, especially because many times it’s just someone making small talk, the truth is some people don’t know or aren’t ready to talk about it publicly. That and they may give you a very different answer at week 38 of pregnancy than well after the baby has arrived so you may as well just wait and see.

“How long were you guys trying?” I have no problem answering this question because it didn’t take us long at all but there are so many women out there struggling to get pregnant and this may not be something they want to share – nor should they be expected to! Just be happy for them that they got pregnant…and leave it at that!

“Was this pregnancy planned?” Again, I don’t mind this question because we did plan when we wanted kids, but there are plenty of people who do not plan it and it really isn’t anyone’s business about whether or not it was planned. They will tell you if they want you to know that the baby was a happy surprise.

Do your best to hold your opinions about the baby names to yourself! I can see why more and more people are keeping the name a secret because along with selecting one or having a short list comes a whole lot of opinions! (I may be guilty of this one myself so I apologize to those of you to whom I have put in my unwanted two cents!)

Try to keep your pregnancy and birth horror stories to yourself.  Though I know you are just trying to relate in some way, no pregnant woman wants to hear about all of the potentially horrible things that can happen along the way. If we are really interested, that’s what the World Wide Web is for and we can find plenty of terrible things to freak us out just by a little Google search. Thank you for relating, but maybe save that story for AFTER the baby is born.

Oh and one very important and final note: Most women look about six months pregnant AFTER they give birth. The celebrities you see in magazines post baby either had a quick tummy tuck, hide out while they work ridiculously hard with a team of help to lose the baby weight before stepping out in public again, or had some great Photoshop work done to their magazine spreads post baby. That isn’t most of our reality. Unless you are 1000% sure you are looking at a woman who is currently pregnant, DO NOT ask her about her pregnancy. If she just had her child and is already doing her best to get the weight off AND be the best mommy she can be, this question will not be taken well.

May your pregnancies be healthy, easy and embarrassment free.

And may we all be mindful of what we say to mothers-to-be as what we are doing to bring children into this world is a LONG, not always comfortable, sometimes quite challenging journey that changes our bodies and minds more than you can imagine.

Written by Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

Photo taken by BeautiesandBabies.com

Ever since I was a teenager, I have been one of the lucky people who have truly loved veggies. Perhaps part of it was that I knew they were good for me so I wanted to like them but regardless, it has never been a chore to get my fill of vegetables.  About two weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I was not so lucky to discover that nausea was taking over my days and I began to have major food aversions I had never experienced before. My love affair with vegetables had quickly turned into a nasty relationship where I could barely even look them in the eye. No matter how the veggies were prepared (raw, sautéed, steamed, etc…) my body just really did not want anything to do with them. Being well aware of the importance of eating plenty of vegetables daily, especially while pregnant, I quickly learned that I would have to find creative ways to get them into my meals.

Most of us are aware by now how important it is to eat plenty of vegetables daily. The USDA’s new food plate suggests that we eat at least five servings a day. Fruits and veggies make up half the plate! Take a look:

More and more studies are being done to prove that eating vegetables daily helps to reduce the risk of various cancers, stroke, heart disease and other chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Plus, if you notice almost any diet being marketed will limit consumption of most foods – including fruit – with the exception of veggies. Not only are veggies incredibly beneficial for our health, most are also low in calories and sugar, making them a great food to eat often.

So if you are anything like me these past eight months and don’t like eating veggies, or have family members that won’t eat enough of them, here are some of the ways I have incorporated them into my diet without feeling like I want to gag every time I eat them. If you have some of your own clever ideas, please share them here so we have more ways to get the vital nutrients that come with eating our veggies.  Thank you!

  • Veggie powders: I have tried a few of the veggie powders out there and the one that I really like is Macro Greens. Macro Greens tastes really great (sweet and not like veggies at all) especially when you follow their suggested way of drinking it: mix the powder with ice, half water and half apple juice. This was my savior when I really couldn’t stomach eating vegetables the first trimester and it tasted more like apple juice than anything. There are so many other kinds out there so find the one that tastes the best to you and again. It shouldn’t replace eating veggies, but is a great way to add some more!
  • Veggie pills:  A dear friend of mine, Lindsay Hall, turned me on to this great product called, Juice Plus+ last spring. Juice Plus+ is 17 different fruits and vegetables that are juiced, dehydrated, and then encapsulated so that you can boost your veggie and fruit intake simply by popping a pill. It is well researched and proven to be bio-available (absorbed by the blood stream), to reduce oxidative stress, to help protect DNA, to aid cardiovascular wellness, and to support the immune system.  By no means should it replace eating vegetables but it is a great way to supplement when you know you aren’t taking enough in daily as is. Visit the site to learn more by clicking here.
  • Fresh veggie juices with a little fruit: I’d say for the past three months one of my major pregnancy cravings has been raw veggie juice with just a bit of apple and/or orange to hide the bitterness of the greens. If the thought of a veggie juice sounds terrible to you, try one with a little fruit and see if that helps. Many health food grocers have juice bars and more and more places that make fresh juices are popping up everywhere. My favorites are a combo of any or all of the following: kale, spinach, parsley, lemon or lime, cucumber, celery, apple and/or orange. Carrot and beet juice are other ones you may like to include, too!
  • Veggie sandwiches: During the second trimester, I was able to take down more veggies as the nausea subsided, but eating salads regularly was still not appealing. So I came up with the perfect solution – vegetable sandwiches.  Something about sticking a bunch of veggies between two pieces of yummy bread makes it so much easier – especially when dressed with sauces such as humus, mayo or Vegenaise, mustard, olive tapenade, or whatever other sauce tickles your fancy.  Get creative and change-up what veggies you put in! I love any and all of the following in mine and usually just have one made at the Whole Foods deli: carrots, cucumbers, tomato, avocado, sprouts, red onions, roasted red peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, mixed greens and lettuce. Add some deli meat and/or cheese and you have yourself a healthy and delicious veggie-filled meal!
  • Raw veggies and dressing for snacks: Usually on Sundays I go to the farmer’s market and buy a bunch of raw vegetables that I cut up to eat as snacks during the week. Since munching on them plain has been a challenge during pregnancy, I have found that dipping them in my favorite dressing has made them so much more enjoyable. My favorite at the moment is blue cheese but you can dip them in whatever will get you to eat them! My favorite ones to munch on are red, yellow and orange peppers, celery, cucumbers, jicama, radishes and carrots. Another tasty snack is slices of tomato with sea salt.
  • Veggies undercover: If you are a parent you may have already mastered this but one of the things I have learned to do these past eight months is sneak more veggies into my meals. When making a spaghetti sauce that is otherwise mostly meat and tomatoes, I will cut up small pieces of broccoli and stir that in, too. Cheese is a big craving for me right now so if I can put cheese or some sort of cream sauce on cooked veggies, they go down a whole lot easier. Try it! See where you can add vegetables to your recipes whether in soups, sauces, poultry or pastas and up the nutrition without feeling like it’s a chore to get those extra veggies.

Good luck!

Written by Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

As clichéd as it may sound, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. We literally “break” the “fast” of the night when we eat in the morning. Whether you eat dinner at 6 or 9 pm and breakfast at 6 or 9 am, your body goes a very long period of time without eating anything. This is why our blood glucose levels (what gives us energy) are low first thing in the morning and will only continue to stay low until we give our body some nourishment.  The longer you wait to eat, the slower your whole body will be to get moving for the day. This also includes your metabolism; the longer the body starves the more likely your next meal will store as fat because of the slow down of your metabolism, while your energy levels will remain low. (Click here to read a great article Livestrong published on the positive effects on the body of eating breakfast).

Back before I realized how important breakfast is I used to wake up and drink a few cups of coffee on an empty stomach and not have breakfast for a couple of hours. I never felt hungry before then so I wouldn’t eat. I now understand that not only was my energy a lot lower than it could be throughout the day but that my metabolism wasn’t working up to its full potential, allowing me to burn more fuel (aka fat) all day long.

Now that I have changed my breakfast habits and eat a protein rich breakfast within an hour of waking up, I have realized just how much more energy I gain because of it. If you are like I used to be and your number one complaint about breakfast is that you just don’t feel hungry or ready to eat, I can tell you that once you start making yourself eat right away, your body will start demanding it. So, in this New Year give your body better health in the morning by waking up and eating a full, protein-rich breakfast. You will be amazed how it will change your energy levels and jump-start each day; your metabolism will work with you and not against you.

To help get you started here are some of my breakfast favorites that I make each day depending on how much time I have to prepare it and what I am in the mood for.  I hope you find some of my ideas helpful and even inspire some of your own! Please share your favorites with us all so we have even more variety in the morning.

HEALTHY BREAKFAST IDEAS

Fast and easy to prepare:

Protein Shake

There are a lot of not so good for you protein mixes out there with a lot of added sugar among other things and some of the healthy ones are really chalky and hard to drink. I love Jay Robb’s Whey protein in both chocolate and vanilla. Add any of the following to it:

  • Any frozen or fresh fruit you like – berries, mangos, bananas, etc…
  • Almond butter or the nut butter of your choice
  • Flax oil for some added omega 3’s
  • Ice

Bowl of Greek yogurt with any or all of the following:

  • Granola (my husband and I love Udi’s gluten-free granola not only because it’s gluten-free but also because it  is sweetened with honey instead of sugar. My local farmer’s market sells GF as well that is sweetened with agave so check to see if yours might have it, too!)
  • Slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, raisins or other chopped dried fruits.
  • Any fresh berries or pomegranate seeds are a favorite at our house
  • Raw cacao nibs if you’re looking for additional fiber
  • Sweeten with a touch of agave, coconut palm sugar or honey

Cottage Cheese with any of the following (or all by itself if that’s the way you like it!):

  • Chopped strawberries or pomegranate seeds, pineapple, or whatever fruit sounds good to you
  • I like it with a little strawberry jam on rice cakes or toast

 Instant hot cereal or oatmeal

  • I have recently fallen in love with EcoPlanet’s Gluten-free Instant Hot Cereal as it contains no sugar and all kinds of healthy grains such as quinoa, buckwheat flour, and flax seeds. Also great is Cream of Buckwheat, Quinoa or Brown Rice and I add the following to any of them:
  • A splash or two of whole milk or goat’s milk (or you can fully sub the water for milk for even creamier cereal with more protein)
  • Slivered almonds and/or walnuts
  • Dried fruits or fresh berries
  • Sweetened with agave, coconut palm sugar or honey

 Toast or instant waffles*

  • Spread on some almond, cashew, sunflower seed, peanut or any nut butter that tickles your fancy!
  • I love organic Nuttzo which is a combo of most nuts and flax seeds and has a great, salty taste! Add a little jam, agave, coconut palm sugar or honey to sweeten.

*(Make a batch of healthy waffles on a weekend and pop them in a freezer. They taste so much better than buying the pre-made ones and are better for you).

Breakfast sausages or patties

Sausages or patties are an easy and fast way to add protein in the morning and only take of minutes on the stove or even faster in the microwave if time is an issue (use the stove if you can!) We love Applegate naturals frozen ones at our house.

Smoked salmon on a bagel – probably the most favorite breakfast in our house!

  • Bagel of your choice (My favorite GF kind is Udis)
  • Wild smoked salmon – Coho or Alaskan
  • Red onions, cream cheese and capers
  • Can add more veggies to get even more nutrition in the morning such as tomato slices, cucumber slices or sprouts. So yummy!

Rice Cakes or Toast with Avocado and sea salt

  • To get the protein we need I add sausage on the side, melt cheese on top or add deli meat on top. Can also add more veggies.

A bit more of a time commitment:

Fried egg with or without avocado on Toast (I like to eat two eggs with two pieces of toast)

Soft-boiled eggs on buttered toast

  • Put eggs in boiling water for 5-6 minutes max and remove quickly.  Cool down in cold water, peel and place on the toast. Depending on your stove top and the way you like it to taste, you may have to figure out exactly what amount of time cooks the egg to your liking as a little too long will over cook them and too short will leave them a little too runny and raw.

Scrambled eggs or omelette with anything you like

  • Veggies such as peppers, onions, or spinach and cheese, ham, sausage etc…

Create a healthy breakfast burrito by using the scrambled eggs above and adding black beans and a touch of sour cream (Greek yogurt works great as a sub for sour cream, too!)

Add a side of nitrate-free bacon (turkey or pork) with any of these breakfasts for even a little extra protein.

If you really have absolutely ZERO time to prepare breakfast, buy individual Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or string cheese to take on the go with a piece of fruit. Stash healthy protein bars and nuts and seeds in your car or purse for days when you don’t have a quick breakfast to go (Check out a list of the protein bars I like the best and that are the healthiest by clicking here).

I hope your mornings this year are filled with a healthy breakfast and lots of energy!

Written by Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

In honor of the new year, I thought it would be a great idea to share with you some of my House of Health tips that were posted in 2011.

I wish you and your loved ones a fun, safe, and happy New Year and all the best for 2012!

Tip #1     From my adventure abroad in Australia last January, I learned that most women in Australia love their bodies no matter their shape and size and it was a great reminder how hard we women are on ourselves to look a certain way in this country. As we enter 2012, please give yourself a break – try to remember that Hollywood’s picture of the perfect body is not only NOT perfect, but also not necessarily even healthy.  Please, please, please find ways to love the body you have and to let go of impractical ideas of what it should look like and this year I promise to do the same. (For more, please look back at An Australian Perspective)

Tip #2    Commit yourself to drinking water more regularly in 2012 if it was a challenge for you. Buy yourself a fancy water bottle that you love and take it everywhere you go just as you carry your wallet and car keys with you. Cut back on the plastic bottles to help your health and the health of the planet and make it a point to get hydrated as it is key to optimal health. See my post, Get Your Camel Back, for more info on the importance of drinking water regularly and tips on how to get more daily.

Tip #3    When it comes time for a sweet treat, challenge yourself to find a healthier alternative in 2012. It is becoming more and more clear that refined sugars could have a terrible impact on our health and there are plenty of yummy sweets that will still satisfy your sweet tooth without it. (Click here to read an excellent NY Times article about the impact of sugar on our health). For some great dessert ideas, check out my Valentine’s Day post, Sweet-Aholics Anonymous.

Tip #4    Find an exercise program that you love and can commit yourself to. As I explained in my guest post on Fitness Motivation Today, it’s really important to take the “work” out of your workout. Explore different classes that you enjoy and change up what you do weekly to keep it interesting and fun. Pilates is an amazing way to not only get physical and mental exercise but it also will help you prevent future injuries and age more gracefully. For more info on Pilates, see my post, Why I’m Addicted to Pilates.  Yoga is another excellent form of exercise worth trying and there are so many styles of classes to choose from that you are sure to find the right one for you. For more info, please click on my post, Finding the Perfect Yoga for You. Whatever you decide you love, commit yourself to exercising regularly in 2012 and your body will really thank you.

Tip #5    If you’ve never tried a juice cleanse before, this next year is the time to do it! Juice cleanses have become the biggest craze as of late and for good reason. A quick three to five-day cleanse is a fabulous way to get your body back on track with healthy eating after the indulgence of the holidays. There are so many great cleanses out there to try and more info can be found on my post, Spring Cleansing. A dear friend of mine just graduated with her masters in nutrition, and has created an amazing juice business that is the perfect way to try a program for the first time if you live in Southern California. Her company, Vibrant Earth Juices, will deliver fresh juices to you and you will feel full and satisfied throughout the cleanse. You will LOVE the results and your tummy will never look and feel better after!

Tip #6    Have you noticed this bizarre weather we’ve had around the world this year? There’s no denying that global warming continues to threaten our planet and it is our job individually to do what we can to help the planet. In 2012, commit to doing your part, simply by changing some of your daily habits that impact Mother Earth. In my post, Easy Peasy Ways to Help Mother Earth, I listed all kinds of small things you can do that will have a large impact on the planet. Let’s all do our part to save our beautiful world for generations to come.

Tip #7    Another simple way to help the planet and your health would be to cut out meat one day a week. Check out my post, Meatless Mondays, to learn more about why it’s a great idea to cut back on the meat you eat, even just for one day of the week.

Tip #8    While cutting back on the meat you eat in 2012, challenge yourself to cut back on the amount of time you spend on your technology devices. As explained in my post, Wireless Wednesdays, stress is detrimental to our health and the amount of time we spend on our computers, iPhones, iPads, internet, etc…puts our bodies and minds into overdrive. See if you can make the effort to cut back on time spent with technology and replace it with quality time spent with friends, family and on your health and wellness.

Tip #9    It’s a lot easier to focus on health when we aren’t working or busy running around getting things done, but how do you take care of yourself when you are at the office? In my post, Health, Fitness and Fun in the Office I explain some easy changes you can make to improve your health while working. Whether it be to take the stairs instead of the elevator or always have healthy snacks and water available at your desk, there are so many small ways to take better care of yourself even when you don’t have a lot of time to think about it. Don’t let your job keep you from feeling your best!

Tip #10    Recently I posted about the importance of eating plenty of good fats in your diet. This is just a reminder that good fats are necessary  whether you add more avocados, fish, oils, nuts or seeds to your daily snacks and meals. Don’t be afraid of fat because as the title says, Fat Won’t Make You Fat!

Tip # 11    When I shared my pregnancy journey with you back in September (From No Period to Pregnant: My All Natural Journey) the most important thing I wanted you to take away from it is to listen to your gut when it comes to your health. If something doesn’t seem to jive with you that your doctor or some other healthcare professional is prescribing or telling you to do, get a second opinion. Do some research on your own and find a way to feel confident in the decisions you make with your body. After all, nobody cares about your health more than you and you owe it to yourself to take charge and feel great every step of the way.

Written by Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

In honor of the holiday weekend ahead, I baked a delicious  and simple-to-make pumpkin cake to take with me to visit family tomorrow. Thanks to a dear friend (Emily, you’re the best!) I have a really easy recipe that can be made as healthy or as “sinful” (as Emily says) as you like. I have included the original recipe and the healthier version that I made, which is especially great for those of you that eat gluten-free and for those who need lower glycemic desserts. (Click here for more info on a low-glycemic diet).

Lately I have been hearing a lot about coconut palm sugar and how it is an even better substitute for baking than agave, due to its health benefits and even lower glycemic index. As an agave lover, I decided to branch out and give it a try, and I am so glad I did! Made from the coconut palm tree, coconut palm sugar not only has a similar texture  and taste to brown sugar which makes it ideal for baking, but its many beneficial nutrients include potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron,  phosphorus, and sodium to name a few. It can be found at any health food store and can be directly substituted in the same quantities as sugar.

The cake tastes great without the frosting as it is super moist so if you are dairy-free or want to bake it in an even healthier way, no need to add the frosting. If you make it the way I did, your family won’t even know that you made some healthier substitutes! If you do make the frosting, the best results will come from sticking to the original recipe as powdered sugar is pretty difficult to sub out (but if you have a great way, please share it!)

Enjoy and may the holiday weekend be filled with love, health and happiness for you and your loved ones.

PUMPKIN CAKE

Preheat oven at 300 degrees.

Mix all of the following cake ingredients together in a large bowl:

2 Cups plain flour

(I chose an all-purpose gluten-free flour but any baking flour of your choice will do)

2 Cups sugar

(I used coconut palm sugar but agave works, too)

2 Cups Pumpkin

(Make sure you don’t get the pie filling with the added  sugar)

2 tsps Baking powder

2 tsps Baking soda

1 1/4 Cups Oil

(I used walnut oil* which is a tasty and has many more health properties than Canola or Vegetable)

1 tsp cinnamon

4 eggs

2 tsps vanilla

(If you are avoiding sugar, watch that your vanilla doesn’t have added sugar)

Icing

8 oz cream cheese

1 box powdered sugar

2 tsp butter

2 tsps vanilla

* More info on why walnut oil is a healthier substitute for baking

Pour cake batter into a well-greased cake pan (whichever kind you like!)

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour (might need more or less depending on what kind of pan you use. I baked it in a rectangular pan and it only took about 50 minutes)

Mix icing while cake is baking and set aside until cake has completely cooled.

Voila, your cake is done!

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and a Happy New Year to all!

Written by: Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

Most of us remember the days when low-fat dieting was all the rage. I certainly was a believer and remember being a teenager and thinking, “How great is this? I can eat cheese and crackers with half the fat so I don’t have to feel bad eating more of them! Awesome!” Low-fat versions of food seemed like magic – I tricked myself into believing they tasted just as good as the originals and felt better about eating them because I believed that less fat was better.

Now in my third decade of life I have a very different take on low-fat food versus full fat. As those of you who read my posts regularly know, I strive to fill my body with whole foods found naturally on the planet, while limiting the amount of packaged and processed foods I eat. Since becoming pregnant, this way of eating has been even more important because I know that what I am eating is affecting more than just myself and have been learning just how important it is to eat the real version – the one that comes with all of the fat and the calories. It is definitely true that there are fats that make people fat and plenty of them. But I promise that if you are eating healthy fats – nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, cheese, milk, etc… those aren’t the things that will make you and your family fat. It’s the other stuff that you just can’t live without – the sugars, fried foods, fast foods, sodas, etc…

If you think about the way food used to be made in our grandparents’ and great grandparents’ time, it was done very simply. Milk came straight from the cows into glass bottles and onto your doorstep (if you were so lucky to get it delivered to you).  Nowadays, it’s hard to say exactly what happens between what the cows are fed, how the milk is extracted and pasteurized, and how it travels from the factory to you. You can have your milk any way you like it – 1 %, 2% nonfat, low-fat, reduced fat, chocolate, strawberry, etc… the possibilities are endless! But in order to get milk the way you like it, it must undergo several extra steps of processing, further losing its nutrients. I know that I would prefer my baby and I to have the most nutrient rich dairy possible and therefore swore off all low-fat dairy months ago.

Notice on the label below for reduced fat milk that it says, “Not suitable for children under 2 years of age”:

I figure, if it isn’t suitable for a young, growing person, it isn’t any more suitable for me.  I promise your children will not get fat from the full fat version of their favorite foods. In fact, if you are someone who fills your daily meals with healthy fats, you may notice how much more full and satisfied you feel at the end of each meal! I know for myself, it definitely has helped cut the sugar cravings for sure.

If you are eating things out of the package (cereals, crackers, etc…) though always better to eat whole, fresh foods instead, don’t buy the low-fat ones. Chances are sugar, salt, or soy have probably been added to it to make up for the loss of the fat.  If the experts had it right two decades ago when they told us to cut the fats and replace them with carbohydrates, why the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes that has taken over our country today?

The National Institute of Health published a great article this month on the importance of good fats versus bad fats and is worth reading while Livestrong also wrote a similar article going into more details on the importance of fat for brain development.

I know the holidays are here and there will be plenty of unhealthy fats for all of us to enjoy so try to make sure you do incorporate the healthy fats, too, and get rid of the old mindset that fat makes you fat. Because the healthy ones DON’T!

Happy Holidays!

Written by, Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

It’s been a year since I posted my Merci Beaucoup Thanksgiving blog and everything I wrote on that list still stands true today, so this year I will just add a couple of things and keep it short and sweet.

Having experienced hosting and cooking most of the turkey meal this past year I truly understood the massive undertaking it is – and my party was only for ten of us! The hours and hours that went into the menu planning, shopping, table planning and decorating, turkey brining, cooking and cleaning were more than I ever expected. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget (and most likely be doing again very soon) but I am grateful this year that I am not hosting and can simply enjoy the day with family. And more importantly, I am so grateful to the thousands of people around the country who are working so hard today, yesterday and all of this past week to put together this amazing tradition for the rest of us to enjoy. Thank you!

I also wanted to add to the list how grateful I am for this little miracle growing inside of me that will forever change the lives of Karl and I and many more that surround us. Giving life is such an incredible thing and I am trying not for a second to take it for granted that I get to enjoy the miraculous experience of it!

Lastly, I really want to thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. It was an idea I had thought about for quite some time and when I finally pulled the trigger last November, I never realized how rewarding it would be to share my stories and health ideas with you. It is always a wonderful surprise how many people are reading what I have to say and the stories and ideas you share in return constantly inspire me.

Thank you for your support, your feedback and personal stories, and for giving me a reason to write. I have always liked writing but didn’t really remember how much I enjoyed it until I started this blog; especially because I am getting to write about things that I am very passionate about.

I wish you and yours a very healthy and happy Thanksgiving and that your life is filled with gratitude not just today but everyday.

Love,

Lana

Written by, Lana House

Studio Owner, House Pilates

 

 

 

The time has come that pumpkin pies are being prepared all over America. It has never been a favorite of mine but lately I have been reading so much about the health properties of pumpkin that I couldn’t help but start to crave it. (I am sure the pregnancy also has something to do with this new craving of mine). Pumpkin is filled with nutrition and here is a brief list to name some of the best reasons to embrace this holiday tradition:

  • High level of anti-oxidant carotenoids which have great anti-cancer properties
  • Contain lutein and zeaxanthin which promote eye health and keep macular degeneration (a chronic condition that causes central vision loss) at bay
  • Good source of vitamin C, K, and E
  • Lots of minerals including magnesium, potassium and iron
  • High level of fiber
  • Great for your hair and skin as well!

Since the most popular way to eat pumpkin is in pie, I thought it would be great to share a recipe for the pumpkin pie I just made this weekend, that can be enjoyed with more of the health benefits, without anything unnatural, yet still very easy to prepare. That way you can make your pie and eat it, too, without the guilt. Happy Thanksgiving!

Low Glycemic, Naturally Sweetened Pumpkin Pie*

2 cups pumpkin puree**
(or 15 oz. of canned organic pumpkin) – I chose to use canned pumpkin for convenience but make sure you don’t buy pie filling! It is filled with sugar among other things. You want 100% pumpkin only!

1 9-inch pastry crust (deep dish) – Can use gluten-free, homemade or store-bought.  Just note that if you don’t buy deep dish, you will have a little filling left. I chose a store-bought Spelt crust, which is easier to digest than wheat but not 100% gluten-free and it worked great!

¾ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp melted butter

3 eggs

¾ cup raw agave nectar (Or try Organic Coconut Palm Sugar which is also low-glycemic and all natural)

1/3 cup whole milk (Definitely use whole milk or the consistency may be off!)

2/3 cup heavy whipping cream

Real Whipped Cream Topping

Put bowl and beaters in freezer to chill before making the whip cream!

1 pint heavy whipping cream

¼ cup agave nectar (Or Organic Coconut Palm Sugar)

1 tsp real vanilla  (Get real Vanilla, without the added sugar and alcohol)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, blend together two cups pumpkin, spice and salt. Beat in melted butter, eggs, agave nectar, milk and cream. Pour filling into pie shell.

2. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Refrigerate until serving.

3. To make whipping cream, pour one pint of whipping cream into chilled mixing bowl and add agave nectar and vanilla. Beat with chilled beaters until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until serving.

** Pumpkin puree: preheat your oven to 450 F. Then, cut the top of the pumpkin off and remove the seeds and membranes. Cut pumpkin in half and place it face down in a baking dish. Add about a half an inch of water to the pan to keep pumpkin moist. Bake about 45 minutes until fork tender. Scrape the soft pulp from the skin into a food processor or blender. Pulse until pureed.

Please tell me how you like it and if you made any substitutions, what they were! And if you aren’t a pumpkin person, try subbing sweet potato puree and still get so many great health benefits.

Thank you and enjoy!

Written by, Lana House

House Pilates, Studio Owner

*This recipe came from a fellow health blog, Vibrant Glow