Wake-up with Pre-Workout Chia Shots!

Photo Credit: discovergoodnutrition.com



Wake up with determination.


Go to bed with satisfaction.



I’ve always been a morning person. I was that girl who signed up for those dreaded 8:00 am classes in college and gladly took an internship which required me to get up at 4:30 am everyday during the summer and senior year (I worked for a morning show at a TV station and I LOVED every second of it).


Yes, Some may call me crazy.

But I prefer to call it dedicated :) .


Fast forward a few years later and I’m still exactly the same. I’m very particular about what time I get up in the morning and I even set my alarm on the weekend (I consider sleeping past 7:00 am late– for me at least!). I’m suppose this is because I’m super particular about how I like my day to pan out–i.e. I’d rather tackle my errands and responsibilities as early as possible so that I have more time to relax (and blog!) later in the day as opposed to rushing around trying to get things done before bedtime. It probably doesn’t surprise you, then, that I was also the girl who finished her papers/projects days before they were due. No all-nighters in the library for me! I know. SUCH a dork.


I find that the same level of particularity can be applied to workout schedules–people tend to be either morning workout warriors or late night sweat sesh gurus. Some people like to hit the gym after dark to work off the stress of the day while I love to get in a hardcore workout first thing in the morning (shocker, I know) because I believe it sets a healthy tone for the rest of my day.


The problem with this?



During the week, I get up at 5:00 am and I’m at the gym by the time it opens at 5:30. The last thing I want to do that early in the morning is eat, but halfway through my morning spin class… I’m always absolutely starving. Ironically, however, breakfast is my absolute favorite meal.  I find nothing more relaxing than waking up on a weekend, making a hot cup of tea, catching up on the news and preparing a healthy breakfast before I hit the gym. I’ve also noticed that when I eat a nice substantial meal… that’s when I get in my very best workouts. Still, during the week, it’s been difficult for me to make this happen.


If there’s one thing I know, it’s that people and breakfast are weird. For example, my boyfriend could be running 30 minutes late to work but he’ll still find a way to sit down to eat a bagel with cream cheese and leisurely drink two cups of coffee every. single. morning. Me on the other hand? I’ll spend the extra time doing my make-up, whipping up lunch, or ironing an outfit while I scarf down a handful trail mix and make a run for the bus. I also have a friend who prefers to eat an entire dinner and then go for a nice long run. The mere idea of running on a full stomach nauseates me, but it works for her. The real trick is finding what works (and feels) best for you. I clearly needed to find something that worked for me and my early morning workout routine, so that’s when I started brainstorming….


What can I eat first thing in the morning that’s easy on the stomach yet provides enough energy to power me through a workout?


Enter Chia Shots :)




Now, if you’re a frequent reader of my blog you know exactly how I feel about the powerful little guys known as chia seeds (you can read all about them plus get a pretty delicious recipe in my post here). To make a long story short, they’re amazing! Don’t believe me? Just check out all of these fabulous health benefits they have to offer below:


  • They deliver the max amount of nutrients with the least amount of calories.
  • Chia seeds have 2x the protein of any seed or grain.
  • They have 3x as much iron as spinach.
  • Chia seeds increase stamina and energy over long periods of time (they are becoming a favorite among marathon runners!)
  • They can aid in weight loss (chia seeds absorb up to 7x its weight, and expand to curb appetite/make you feel full).
  • They are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA.
  • Chia seeds can reduce overall cholesterol and increase good cholesterol (HDL)
  • They are heart-healthy in that they have one of the most concentrated sources of Omega-3 than in any other food (even salmon).
  • They also contain high amounts of Omega-6 (both Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids cannot be made internally and must be obtained through diet).
  • They contain the essential minerals such as sodiumphosphoruspotassium (2x as much as bananas), manganese, and calcium (5x more than in milk!).
  • They are FULL of antioxidants (3x as much as blueberries!).
  • Chia seeds have 11 grams of dietary fiber in one ounce (the soluble fiber improves digestion and helps to reduce glycemic spikes)
  • They do not need to be ground like flax seeds in order to reap their benefits.
  • Chia seeds have a long shelf life and do not spoil as quickly as other seeds (like flax-seed).
  • They soothe heartburn and calm the digestive system due to the gel-like substance they form when mixed with a liquid (this is especially helpful for people with IBS).
  • Chia can relieve itchy skin (in oil form)
  • They can help to balance blood sugar/prevent glucose spikes


Sounds like the perfect powerhouse food to me!



Now, I will be honest– chia seeds can take a little getting used to. When soaked in liquid, they expand up to 7x their weight and develop a gel-like coating. The consistency reminds me of tapioca pudding (I grew up eating tapioca and rice pudding, so it has never bothered me that much). Don’t worry, there are plenty of other ways to reap the benefits of chia seeds if you don’t love the texture in a pudding form (blended into a smoothie, sprinkled over a salad, mixed into my Weekend Workout Oatmeal–don’t worry, recipe to come!), but I urge you to give the soaked version a try– when you discover how great you feel after eating them you won’t be turning back :) . PLUS, the best part of all is that you can mix this recipe up the night before, toss it in the fridge, and voilà! It’s ready for you in the morning before you head to the gym.


Now you can have a quick and tasty-pre-workout snack that will power you through your gym sesh!


Pre-Workout Chia Shots




  • 2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk (add more or less milk depending upon how thick you want the consistency of the chia shots– i.e. do you want to drink it or eat it with a spoon like a pudding)
  • Slightly under 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract (or almond extract)
  • 1/2 packet of stevia
  • Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (to taste)
  • Optional: Add in some powdered peanut butter or cocoa powder (to taste), raisins, a spoonful of granola, a few chocolate chips, a drizzle of 100% maple syrup, or a some slices of banana.



  • Measure out chia seeds in a small glass, mug or bowl.
  • Pour almond milk over the chia seeds.
  • Add stevia, your extract of choice, and any other fun surprises you might like. Mix well.
  • Chill in the fridge overnight (just give the chia pudding a good stir before you eat it in the morning) or wait 10 minutes and mix well if you want to eat it right away.
  • For an actual “chia shot,” pour chia pudding mixture into shot glasses and shoot em’ back! (Actual shot glasses are totally optional– feel free to use a spoon if you’d like :) ).
  • Follow these chia shots with a small, healthy breakfast post-gym and you’ve set the groundwork for a nice, healthy day!
  • Note: Of course these shots can be eaten any time of the day for a healthy snack or even for some protein-rich post-workout fuel. And if you’re looking for a more substantial snack, breakfast, or a healthy dessert– simply double up the recipe for a bigger bowl of Chia Power Pudding.

So eat up early birds!


And never go hungry during a workout again. 


Cheers to that! ;)




Healthfully Yours,


Ashley Michelle






Healthy Hangover Cures

Photo Credit: tumblr

















Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!


Let’s face it– no one can be a health-nut 100% of the time. And when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a weekend, there’s no denying it’s going to be tough to be good and not give in. So go on. Be safe. Have fun. Join in the celebrations. But be ready to face the consequences…


After a weekend of Irish bar hopping, dancing, singing and plenty of indulging in green beer (while you’re at it check out this list of vegan-friendly beers) your body is going to need some serious damage control. And as much as you’d like to stuff your face with greasy fries and a burrito at 9:00 AM the morning after the fun festivities…allow me to be that little conscious on your shoulder telling you “STOP!!! DON’T DO IT!”


Sorry… (not sorry).

You’ll thank me later.



So, instead of eating unhealthy foods, wasting the entire day away in bed, and pretty much hating yourself for doing so afterwards… grab a tall glass of water and allow me to share some of my healthy hangover tips that will help to get you back on your feet and feeling better in no time :) .


Have a Healthy Hangover:


Photo Credit: busanhaps.com

















  1. Take your vitamins:

    Alcohol causes inflammation. Inflammation causes health problems (including hangovers).  Omega-3 fatty acids combat inflammation. So, the easy thing to do? Pop a couple of omega-3s to reduce inflammation. An added bonus? They’ll help with those questionable puffy, red eyes of yours as well. Another vitamin that helps with hangover symptoms is vitamin B. Vitamin B (which plays a key role in the functioning of the brain and nervous system) is known to speed up the metabolism of alcohol, so it’s a good idea to take a vitamin B complex before you go out and first thing in the morning when you wake up.


  2. Sip peppermint tea:

    Start your morning off with peppermint tea. Peppermint leaves have a soothing aroma and some pretty great therapeutic powers. When made into a tea, they settle the stomach and help with indigestion– two major hangover culprits. Peppermint also helps to cleanse and detoxify the liver, and by cleansing and detoxifying the liver you’ll able to speed up the hangover recovery process. Since the liver is in charge of filtering alcohol and other toxins from your body, it’s probably a good idea to give the poor guy a break (after all those green beers, it’s the least you can do). Lastly, peppermint tea contains antioxidants– while antioxidants may not help with your nausea, they do help to get your skin looking great–and chances are your skin could use a little boost after all that dehydrating alcohol anyways. So, drink up!


  3. Have a green smoothie:

    I know the idea of getting all the ingredients together to make a green smoothie is about as appealing as a shot of tequila right about now…but trust me on this one. You’ll feel 100x better after drinking this healthy concoction.  After a night out, your poor body is already working hard enough to process all that poisonous alcohol filtering through your liver– so the last thing you should do is make it work even harder by filling up your belly with greasy, fatty junk food that takes extra time to break down (Please don’t cry. I know that’s what you really want, but it will do you no good). The better option? A healthy smoothie. My Green Superstar Smoothie is crammed with vitamin C, antioxidants, and hydrating nutrients that will help you to kiss your hangover goodbye. Detoxifying ingredients like lemon juice, parsley, and cilantro will have you feeling refreshed and revived in no time, the banana will level out your potassium levels, the pear and apple will give your system a healthy dose of vitamin C to stimulate the liver (and potentially fend off any germs you may have picked up the night before), the spinach is also full of hangover fighting vitamin C as well as sulfur and folic acid, and the water will rehydrate your very dehydrated body.


  4. Order miso soup:

    After a night out on the town, chances are you’re dehydrated and devoid of the proper sodium, water, and nutrients your body needs due to the diuretic effects of alcohol. Miso soup, the popular soup you can order in Japanese restaurants,  is chock full of beneficial enzymes, nutrients and bacteria that can help to undo some of the damage you did the night before. Miso soup is also fermented and the healthy bacteria created through the fermentation process can help settle an uneasy stomach.


  5. Drink kombucha tea:

    Once again the Japanese have it right. Kombucha tea is that fancy bottled tea you can find at Whole Foods with weird stuff floating at the bottom. That weird “stuff” is actually a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, and when it’s fermented, the healthy bacteria created actually helps to settle a queasy stomach. It sounds a lot yuckier than it really is, and the slightly alcohol-y  taste may take a little getting used to (there are trace amounts of alcohol in the tea as a result of the fermentation), but this tea contains probiotics which are great for your gut, especially after it’s been stripped down and abused by booze from the night before. I like GT’s Kombucha Tea best.


  6. Brew a cup of green tea:

    Instead of making the trek to Dunkin Donuts or immediately reaching for that pot of coffee to get your caffeine fix, brew up a nice warm cup of green tea instead. Green tea is chock full of antioxidants that can help to fight free-radicals (which are released by alcohol) and the caffeine in green tea can help to ease your headache.  Another trick that may ease your hangover? Drink a cup of green tea when you get home from a night out and about and let those anti-oxidants do their restorative work while you sleep.


  7. Sweat it out with exercise:

    Okay people. I know you are probably rolling your eyes at me right about now, but hear me out. Exercise gets the blood circulating, and the sweat going which helps to eliminate waste and all of those nasty toxins produced by the alcohol that makes you feel so gosh darn awful in the first place. Plus, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel happy. And let’s be serious–when you’re hungover, you need all the happy feelings you can get. (I also know I don’t need to remind you that alcohol isn’t exactly figure-friendly…so it’s a good idea to get moving in order to balance out those unhealthy calories).


  8. Crack open a coconut water:

    When you’re hungover, don’t reach for the Gatorade (have you read about the scary ingredient in the popular drink that’s also found in flame retardants?). Coconut water is nature’s sports drink. It’s low-calorie, fat-free, cholesterol-free and has far less sugar than other juices or recovery drinks. It’s also full of vitamins, minerals and those all-important electrolytes that the human body needs to function properly. Electrolyte imbalance (too much or too little) can cause the muscles in your body–including your heart–to malfunction. When this happens illness can occur. Thankfully, coconut water has five of the same electrolytes also found in human blood. Potassium, one of the most important electrolytes, regulates the body’s water level so you don’t retain too much water or dehydrate. Potassium also conducts electrical impulses for heart contractions, nerve conduction, and skeletal muscle movement. Just one serving of coconut water contains 250 mg of potassium (the recommended daily allowance is 2,000 mg). Need more proof that this stuff is amazing? Fun Fact: 100% coconut water has been used  intravenously when conventional hydration fluids were not available. Talk about healthy!


  9. Chew on some crystallized ginger:

    Ginger has been used to treat nausea, morning sickness, and inflammation for years, but its strong flavor may not be pleasant to everyone. If you like the taste of ginger tea, drink a cup first thing in the morning to settle your uneasy stomach. I’m not a huge fan of ginger tea myself, but crystallized ginger (which is sugar-cured ginger root) is a much more palatable way to enjoy the benefits of this potent spice, especially first thing in the morning. This is a much better alternative to drinking ginger ale, which often has caramel color and high fructose corn syrup– unhealthy ingredients that won’t help your overall health or ease your hangover one bit. You can find crystallized ginger in health food stores or the natural section of most supermarkets.


  10. Jump in a hot shower/bath:

    Peel yourself off the couch or roll out of bed and get into a steamy hot shower or a nice relaxing bath. Not only is it soothing for your feet, your head, and your belly, but maybe (just mayyybe) you’ll be motivated to get out of the house at some point during the day if you wash off the scent of booze from the night before. An added bonus? The steam will open up your pores, get your skin breathing, and increase circulation so you can get that healthy, pre-hangover glow back.


  11. Take a nap:

    PHEW! Aren’t you happy to see this fun activity on the list? Consider this one a gift. After you’ve worked out, eaten well, and taken a shower…GET YOUR REST! I’m giving you permission to nap and watch all the trashy TV you want (preferably anything on Lifetime, TLC, Bravo, The Food Network, or E!). Enjoy :) .



    Rest up, relax, and feel better soon everybody!


    Photo Credit: Pinterest




Healthfully Yours,


Ashley Michelle





Potassium Levels in Coconut Water 

Time Magazine: Coconut water is nature’s hangover relief

CNN: Hangover remedies

Wholesome Hangover Helpers

Livestrong: Crystallized Ginger

Glamour Magazine: Hangover cures

Hangover Cures You’ll Need for the Holidays

Bon Appetit: Healthy Smoothies

VegNews: Vegan Beer 


My Favorite Things: Vegan Grocery List Edition!



Photo Credit: yes-butno.com


Shocker, right?


So…what do I eat?



Well, as you can imagine, I get asked this question all the time. Strangely enough people still like to assume that being vegan goes hand in hand with being deprived. I mean if we can’t eat meat, milk, and cheese… we must be starving, right??


Thank goodness both you and I know that’s just not true :) .


I’m pretty sure I’ve never walked into a grocery store and thought to myself “Oh weary me…there’s absolutely nothing that I can eat in here!” In fact, it’s quite the contrary. I could literally spend hours browsing around Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s discovering interesting new foods I have yet to try. More often than not, my cart becomes so full of fun and exciting ingredients that I have to force myself to put some things back! (i.e. raw cashews are how much? Too much. A girl’s gotta budget after all!).


However, while I love to try new things, I do have a few favorite grocery items that have become pantry staples and/or make their way into my cart each week when I go food shopping. So since questions about what I eat are in fact the most common questions I get on this blog, I thought I’d share 30 of my favorite things with you.



Your Revamped Vegan Grocery List: Ashley’s Favs



Photo Credit: alittlemarket




 1.  Almond Milk (unsweetened):

Even if I wasn’t vegan, I’d still be baking and making my oatmeal, smoothies, cookies, cakes, and ice cream with this stuff. The creamy consistency of almond milk seems far more decadent than the mere 35 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per 8 oz lets on (I buy the Whole Foods unsweetened kind). Don’t love almond milk? Try coconut milk instead! It adds a nice tropical flair to whatever you add it to while only clocking in at 50 calories and 4 grams of fat per 8 oz. May I also suggest using it in a nice curry sauce or a creamy pina colada?


2.  Apples:

An apple a day keeps the munchies away! When I’m craving something sugary or sweet in the afternoon…a juicy apple is just the fix I need. Apples nix my cravings and fill me up thanks to a heavy dose of fiber (3.3 grams in just one medium apple). I like to slice up my favorite kind (either a Fuji or Gala) in the morning, toss it in a baggie or Tupperware container (for easy snacking) and store it in the fridge to keep the slices crispy and cold.


3.  Arugula/Butter Lettuce:

Arugula (a spiky-looking little lettuce) is a great addition to any boring old salad. The slightly spicy/peppery flavor pairs perfectly with a citrus dressing or topped with orange sections, dried cranberries and walnuts. Feeling crazy? Use arugula in place of basil for a fresh take on your typical pesto. Butter lettuce is another one of my snazzy salad staples. It’s sweet flavor and a smooth texture goes wonderfully with slices of ripe avocado and bites of crunchy apples or juicy pears. I also find this type of lettuce is pretty voluminous, so it fills up my bowl, and me, quite nicely :) . You can easily find butter lettuce in the refrigerated veggie section of most  grocery stores.


4.  Beets:

Beets are most definitely a love it or hate it kind of food. I for one happen to absolutely adore their deep, earthy flavor. Whether thrown on top of a salad or roasted in the oven and eaten on their own, beets are an antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory , detox-promoting addition to any veggie based meal. Just be careful when preparing…these babies stain! (Which actually makes for an awesome natural food coloring).


5.  Betty Lou’s Just Great Stuff (powdered peanut butter):

To say I’m addicted to this, well, just great stuff would be an understatement. Not only is Betty Lou’s powdered peanut butter a healthier, (figure-conscious) alternative to traditional peanut butter (and a godsend to pb-crazy people like me), but it tastes amazing too–especially mixed into oatmeal, spread on top of toast or scooped into a banana smoothie! Just mix a couple of tablespoons of the peanut powder with water and voilà! Instant peanut butter for a mere 45 calories and 1.5 grams of fat (and the chocolate peanut butter version only has 40 calories and 1 gram of fat :) ). You can find it in the health food section of Shaw’s, online, or at Whole Foods. And you just may never want regular pb again.


6.  Better N’ Peanut Butter:

This is another awesomely tasty peanut butter alternative. It has a stickier consistency than the real stuff, but it tastes just as delicious—I personally like to spread it on CocoLite crisps (see below) and top it with slices of banana or add a spoonful to my dessert hummus. Oh. And it’s only 100 calories and 2 grams of fat for 2 whole tablespoons! Guilt be gone.


7.  Cayenne Pepper:

If you read my last post, then you already know how much I love cayenne. Not only is it a metabolism boosting superfood, but it also has the ability to pump up all sorts of food, drinks, an even dessert. Sprinkle a little pepper on your salad or in your protein shake for an extra kick. Heck, sprinkle it in this chocolate bar recipe or a batch of brownies for an unexpected and spicy (yet tasty!) surprise.


8.  Chia Seeds:

You already know I’m obsessed with these babies. Not only are they full antioxidants, iron, calcium, potassium, and omega fatty acids (to name a few key nutrients), but these heart-healthy, energy-boosting seeds offer the most nutritional bang for their buck— 3 whole tablespoons go a long way and pack only 10 grams of healthy fat, 10-12 grams of protein for 160 calories. This makes it a great staple for anyone looking to stay fit and trim ans full of energy.


9.  Coconut Oil:

Chances are you’ve heard the hype about the stuff, but have you tried it for yourself? If not, buy it. BUY IT NOW. Use it anywhere you’d use butter (that’s why it’s a vegan’s dream) or oil.  It’s a perfect addition to any baked good and adds an exotic flavor to veggie stir-fries and noodles. And while you’re at it…slather some oil on your hands and lips– it’s fantastic for dry skin or as an eye make-up remover too! Check out the health benefits of coconut oil here (from Dr. Oz) and here (from Shape magazine).


10.  Cucumbers:

Sliced cucumbers are the perfect snack, so I always make sure to have a container full of them in the fridge. There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool, crunchy cucumber dipped in hummus, sprinkled with pepper, or even spread with a dab of almond butter. Of course, cucumbers taste perfectly fine on their own as well! Long day at work? Give yourself an at-home spa treatment. Place a couple of slices on your eyes for instant realization and instant de-puffing. Glass of wine optional ;) . (Want to up the presentation factor? Use a small heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut your cucumber slices into pretty little hearts. Cute!).


11.  Dates (whole-pitted):

Dates are nature’s candy. They taste exactly like caramel! Trust me. I like to use dates instead of refined sugar for sugar-free baking and I like to snack on a few dates during the day for a satisfyingly sweet (yet healthy!) treat. Dates are also a good source of calcium, potassium, and fiber. Looking for a great pre-workout treat? Stuff three dates with an almond for instant energy on the go. You can find dates next to the raisins and other dried fruits in most grocery stores.


12.  Edamame:

Oh edamame. What would I do without you? I practically go into panic mode if I realize I’ve  run out of this Ashley staple. I consistently have at least four bags in my freezer (two bags of shelled edamame and two bags still in the pods). I like to cook up a whole bag of the shelled kind and keep it in the fridge all week-long so I’m just one handful away from a quick and easy snack, or I’ll add a few spoonfuls of the beans on top of salads. I also like to cook up a bag in the pods so I have a healthy appetizer to accompany my meals. Edamame is by far my favorite protein source ( ½ cup clocks in at 7 grams of protein for only 120 calories). Just be sure to buy organic—soybeans are often the victim of GMOs. Want some yummy edamame recipes? Check out my Toasted Sesame Green Bean and Carrot Salad and my Protein-Packed Confetti Quinoa recipes!


13.  Frozen Veggies:

Don’t have enough time to make a healthy dinner? Blasphemy I say! If you have frozen veggies in your freezer, the you have NO excuses. Toss those babies in the microwave and top with a zesty sauce or salsa and black beans and BAM. Instant dinner in 5 minutes. Done and DONE.


14.  Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas):

These beans are another pantry staple of mine—and at only 89 cents a can (from Trader Joe’s), it’s easy to keep plenty of them in your kitchen. I use these versatile little legumes for baked goods, dessert hummus, or to toss in a salad or stir-fry for extra protein. I’ve been dying to experiment with roasting chickpeas, so keep an eye out for a recipe soon! Looking for some healthy dessert recipes? Try my LOW-FAT Chocolate-Covered Cherry Dream DipNaughty Biscotti (Gluten Free!), Soft and Chewy Cinnamon Spice Cookies (Gluten-Free!), and my Healthy Cinnamon Apple Pie Squares (Gluten-Free!).


15.  Hummus:

If I had to name the one thing in this world I couldn’t go without every single day…hummus would be that thing. I often have at least three different kinds open in my fridge at any given time. Whether spread on Coco-Lite Crisps (see below), eaten with raw veggies, or topped on a salad in lieu of salad dressing, hummus is easily my best figure-friendly alternative to all those fattening dips, dressings and spreads out there. My favorite hummus tends to come from Trader Joe’s—be sure to try out their three-layer hummus (a multi-layer sampling of classic, red pepper, and cilantro hummus)  and their sundried-tomato basil hummus and be ready to get addicted.


16.  Kale:

I don’t know how it took me so long to discover this cruciferous green, but boy oh boy am I glad I did. Whether steamed with fresh veggies, sautéed with garlic and olive oil, or baked with nutritional yeast into crunchy little chips, once you start eating kale you just won’t want to stop. I legitimately get “kale cravings”—something all my fellow kale eaters will understand! For a tasty kale recipe check out my Post-Holiday Detox Salad and my Spiced-Up Cranberry Orange Stuffing.


17.  Lentils:

Lentils! Where have you been all my life?! These little guys also made their way into my kitchen a little late in the game…and now I can’t get enough of them. Lentils have a very bold and earthy flavor and taste especially nice with savory dishes like sautéed mushrooms or in a big ol’ bowl of roasted root vegetables. You can even mash them up to make vegan “meatloaf” or veggie burgers—they hold together quite nicely and amp up the protein in every dish. I like to buy the packages of pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s in their refrigerated section.


18.  Nut Butters (almond, sunflower):

For those days when you’re sick of regular peanut butter (is that even possible?) or, if you’re just looking for a change, sunflower butter and almond butter are lovely stand-ins. The nutrition facts are pretty much identical to that of plain old PB but they each have completely different flavor profiles. Almond butter has a much more subtle flavor and a much grittier texture than peanut butter. It tastes fabulous topped on a bowl of steaming oatmeal or blended into an icy smoothie. Sunflower butter has a much stronger flavor and a thinner, smoother consistency which makes it a perfect spread for warm toast. Sunflower butter can also be blended into dessert hummus or used in place of peanut butter for a creative new take on peanut butter cookies. I like to buy the individual serving packets for easy packing and portion control.


19.  Nutritional Yeast:

Don’t be weirded out by the name—this tasty little condiment adds a slightly nutty and cheesy flavor to vegan dishes, plus it’s high in vitamin B-12 and protein. Nutritional yeast tastes great in a savory meals like macaroni and “cheese,” sprinkled on fresh salads, or mixed into warm sauces and stews. I usually buy it in tubs from Whole Foods or you can buy the Bragg’s brand it in the natural sections of most grocery stores.


20.  Pears (Bosc, D’Anjou):

When I’m getting a little bored with apples (or if I just want to mix things up a bit) I’ll turn to a similar fruit—pears!  Bosc or D’Anjou pears happen to be my favs. I’ll poach or sauté them on the stove and add them to a cinnamon-spiked couscous or quinoa instead of apples in my holiday stuffing, chop them up and add them to my Fruity Tutti Fruit Bowl, or slice them up and add them to a salad with my Very Berry Vitality Vinaigrette. Of course, pears taste amazing just on their own, if you’re not looking to get overly fancy.


21.  Pineapple:

Did you know pineapple settles the stomach? It’s true! Why do you think they always serve it at Chinese food buffets ;) . Aside from the fact that pineapple can prevent indigestion and stomach inflammation, it also tastes pretty incredible–sweet enough to eat for dessert, yet versatile enough to toss in a stir-fry or  blended up and added to a sesame ginger dressing/dipping sauce.


22.  Pumpkin Pie Spice:

If you want to make anything taste cozy and indulgent, this spice will do the trick. I used to put cinnamon on everything– sprinkled on fruit salad, added to protein shakes, mixed into peanut butter, added to cookie dough, dusted on toast…the list goes on and on– but as soon as I bought some pumpkin pie spice to make my vegan pumpkin pie, I realized it’s not just for Thanksgiving!  A mix of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, this spice gives you more bang for you buck and makes everyday dishes taste like the holidays.


23.  Raw Almonds/Sunflower Seeds/Soy Nuts:

Looking for a way to crush your hunger while getting  healthy dose of fat and protein? Nuts and seeds are the way to go. I’ll often grab a handful of soaked almonds for a pre or post workout snack or I’ll toss some soaked sunflower seeds on top of my lunch salad to fill me up nice and good. I recently started soaking my almonds and sunflower seeds when I learned that doing so results in increased enzyme activity, greater absorption of the food’s nutrients by the body, a reduction in tannins, and increased digestibility. Check out this simple tutorial on how to soak your nuts and seeds here. And don’t worry–if you’re sick of almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds, soy nuts are a tasty alternative. At 6 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of dietary fiber, and 145 calories per 1/3 cup, these little nuts (which are actually soaked, roasted soybeans) are a figure friendly version to most other nuts out there. Toss them with raisins and granola for an easy homemade trail mix or eat them by themselves for a satisfying snack (I like to buy the unsalted kind).


24.  Seaweed:

Okay. I know what you’re thinking but hear me out. I’m not crazy. The same stuff you find floating around in the ocean can also be found on the shelves of most supermarkets, and for good reason! Sea vegetables (including deep green kombu, dried black hijiki, chewy red dulse, emerald wakame, bright, leafy sea lettuce, and dark, toasted nori) have a variety of health benefits– they are high in essential amino acids and are an excellent source of calcium, iron, magnesium, iodine, potassium and vitamin B-12. You can often find seaweed in soups, salads, or wrapped around your sushi, but my favorite way to eat seaweed is toasted. Trader Joe’s makes awesome Toasted Seaweed Snacks in both regular or wasabi flavor for just 99¢! Personally, I like to eat the toasted wasabi seaweed strips with a dollop of hummus and a slice of avocado. Yum!


25.  Roasted Corn:

I always have a couple of cans of corn on hand just in case I want to make my famous Mexican Salad (complete with avocado, black beans, cilantro hummus, mango salsa, brown rice, and of course, corn–post to come soon!) but once I discovered this bag of roasted corn in Trader Joe’s frozen food section…I knew I wouldn’t be able to settle for anything else. This corn tastes almost as good as my Dad’s famous grilled corn on the cob…without all that extra work ;) . Use this corn in anything from soups and salads to chili and stir-fry. I promise you’ll be just as hooked as me!


26.  Shredded Carrots:

I love carrots no matter how you slice, dice or juice them, but just recently I’ve discovered a new way to eat these healthy orange root veggies–shredded. Shredded carrots bulk up a salad and cook up quite nicely in a stir-fry. Looking to get extra creative? Cook up some shredded carrots and mix them with spaghetti squash– top with marinara sauce and voilà! You have a healthy pasta alternative for dinner.


27.  Soyatoo (whipped topping):

Everyone needs a little whipped cream in their life, and yes, even vegans can enjoy this tasty treat every now and then. Thanks to Soyatoo, my puddings, pies, cakes, and hot cocoa don’t need to go naked all the time. Soyatoo is made from soy milk and has roughly the same nutrition facts as regular whipped cream. It’s a bit expensive ($4.99 a can) but it tastes amazing– it’s definitely worth the splurge for special occasions. Try it on my Cha Cha Chocolate-Hazelnut Chi Pudding or my Oh So Sassy Strawberry Shortcake :) .


28.  Tofu:

So clearly this is the stereotypical vegan shopping list staple, but only because it’s so darn versatile. Use silken tofu in protein shakes, soups, sauces, pies and puddings and use the firm kind to chop up and bake, grill or add to a stir fry. Tofu absorbs the flavors and seasonings cooked with it, so you can marinate firm tofu just like you can marinate meat, and use the silken kind in dessert recipes. Don’t believe me? Check out my pumpkin pie recipe.


29.  Quinoa:

Quinoa is another great way for vegans and vegetarians to get their protein. Not only does quinoa have all nine essential amino acids– making it a complete protein– but it has 10 grams of protein in just 1/2 cup. I like to make a big batch of quinoa on a Sunday night and store it in the fridge for the week. Make breakfast quinoa by mixing it up with a little cinnamon, vanilla, raisins, and chopped up apple or banana, toss a couple spoonfuls on top of your salad for lunch, or mix it with some steamed veggies for an instantly easy dinner. Looking to add a little extra flavor to that quinoa? An easy trick I often use is to cook the grain with low sodium vegetable broth instead of water (and sometimes a splash of carrot juice!). It makes all the difference. Looking for an easy recipe? Check out my Confetti Quinoa.


30.  Whole Wheat Coco- Lite Pop Cakes:

Put down the rice cakes people! You might want to prepare yourselves. You will be 100% addicted to these amazingly low-calorie and satisfying snacks at that very first crunchy bite. I first discovered Coco-Lite pop cakes while wandering around at Whole Foods last summer and they’ve been on my weekly grocery list ever since. Whether topped with peanut butter, hummus, ice cream or fruit– you don’t have to stop at just one cake. At only 16 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of sugar per 7-8 inch pop cake you can eat as many as you’d like without feeling the guilt. I usually buy the whole wheat cakes, but I just discovered that they have other fun flavors like Maui Onion, Blueberry Cinnamon, Original, Carrot, Strawberry, and Triple Green. Check out this link for some awesome recipe ideas.


So what are you waiting for?


Get shopping! And get eating ;) .


Photo Credit: Etsy




 Healthfully Yours,


Ashley Michelle




Benefits of Soaking Nuts

Benefits of Soaking Nuts and Seeds

Health Benefits of Eating Seaweed

Hot & Spicy Detox Lemonade




When life hands you lemons…


Make lemonade!


Spicy Detox Lemonade.



Have you ever tried a juice cleanse?

I thought about it, but then I decided, hey…my body needs real food!

And oh yea…it’s pretty darn EXPENSIVE.


Now, I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about juicing for extended periods of time (case in point: the Jack LaLanne Juicer I begged  for for Christmas is still sitting there in my pantry, unopened, and taking up precious cabinet space). On one side of things, I think it’s extremely beneficial to give your digestive system a break every now and then so all that extra energy can go towards cleansing and beautifying your body inside and out, but on the other side, I don’t believe in doing anything that starves your body of the vital nutrients and calories it needs. For instance, I DO NOT endorse in any way shape or form the Master Cleanse, however, the BluePrintCleanse is something that has caught my eye–namely because I know people who aren’t vegan, dieters, or hardcore cleansers who have tried this program, didn’t starve themselves,  and have nothing but good things to say about it–even when I raise skepticisms (i.e. no, they didn’t feel like they were restricting, yes, it tastes good, and yes, they felt fabulous after).


The BluePrintCleanse is a three-day, juice-based cleanse (you drink six raw, organic, cold-pressed juices a day) that was born out of the idea that “cleansing needed to be liberated from the rigid dogma and new-age aesthetics of the raw food universe and made more accessible to more people.” And accessible it is– you can buy it online or at your local Whole Foods! The BluePrintCleanse breaks their cleansing program down into three “levels” (Renovation, Foundation, Excavation) and it’s up to you to decide which one your are most comfortable with. The different levels include various juices made of greens, veggies and fruits along with more filling/sustaining nut milks. Don’t worry,  you can gauge your comfort level and pick the cleanse that’s right for you by reading these witty little descriptions :) :




Photo Credit: BluePrintCleanse













“I know what whole foods are, and I’ve seen people buying them. I would too, but I’m too busy to be choosy – my vegetable intake comes in the form of: Ketchup – “tomatoes” and French Fries – “potatoes.” Salad is found in EVERY cheeseburger I eat: it’s that green-ish color in the middle of the burger. Fruit? Easy, it’s the garnish on my cocktail, (usually an orange). I have cut back on red meat… and know I should only buy organic, free range, hand massaged meats and vegetables raised by people who smell like patchouli oil, but where do they even sell that stuff?”






Photo Credit: BluePrintCleanse













“I don’t know what I am! I’m not a vegetarian because I eat fish (but not the kind with mercury). I’m definitely NOT, nor will I ever be, a vegan – (I love a good cheese plate…and sometimes a salami plate). I try to eat a big salad everyday and limit those “bad-starches.” When I do have dessert, I order some sort of fruit based dessert, as opposed to that awesome flourless chocolate cake…that, sometimes I do order…but only because it’s flourless, …and a special occasion. But, that’s not even a big deal, cause’ I’ll just work it off at the gym the next day.”






Photo Credit: BluePrintCleanse



“I am extremely conscious of everything I put into my body. I exercise, I don’t make drinking a habit, and I eat organic. Am I a vegan? A raw foodist? I’m not into labels – so, when people ask me that question, I simply reply: ‘I eat what I want, when I want it.” I don’t consider choosing my food wisely, “missing out.” My only rule is: If it doesn’t make me feel healthy and zaps my energy, I don’t eat it. I’m not trying to live forever; I just want to make sure that while I am alive, I feel as good as I possibly can!”


Sounds easy enough, right?


Yes, it all sounds wonderful, easy, and grand but here’s my first issue with the cleanse– it only last three days. I don’t think a cleanse– any cleanse for that matter– will change your life in just three days (and I’m willing to bet that many people who end up jumping on the “cleanse bandwagon” are looking for a quick fix or rapid weight loss rather than a lasting lifestyle change).


NEWSFLASH: Don’t expect lasting success if this is your mindset!


If you’ve been filling up your body with sugary, trans-fat-filled, processed junk for years and year and years…drinking juice for three days is not going to magically undo all the damage, nor is it going to take off any of those real unhealthy pounds. That being said, I do believe that a quick juice-cleanse can prepare you, motivate you, and set you up for a continued pattern of heathy eating and success if you do it right. And by doing it right, I mean don’t go back to eating all that unhealthy crud as soon as your three days are up! Use your  freshly rejuvenated system as a baseline or starting point for continued dietary success and a commitment to healthy choices :) .


Now, my second issue with this cleanse is that it’s a pretty hefty investment for three days– I’m talking $195 for three days. Now, I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t have $195 hanging around to spend on three days of juice. heck, that’ more than a spend on three weeks worth of groceries! And finally, my last issue with the BluePrintCleanse? It uses agave (you can read all about the reasons why I don’t like to use agave in this post here).


So…what’s a penny-pinching, ingredient-inspecting, juice-craving girl to do when she wants to clean up her diet and pave the way for healthy habits and longterm detoxification?


Why, she modifies by creating her own cleanse of course :) .


NOTE: Please allow me remind you- I am NOT a dietician or doctor of any kind. In no way am I attempting to give you medical advice in any way, shape or form. Instead, I am merely looking to share a few healthy options that you might decide to try to include in your diet while sticking to eating clean, whole, foods and healthy meals if it feels right for you. Each person has different dietary needs– I find the following plan happens to work wonders and feel right for me, but I cannot speak for everyone else. Also note that I will be speaking in regards to the Excavation Cleanse level of the BPC for the following couple of paragraphs.


One of the main drinks that can be found in all three BluePrintCleanse cleanses is a lovely green juice called BluePrintGreen. It’s a delicious combination of organic greens (a whopping 6 lbs. worth!), spices, and fruit including romaine, celery, cucumber, apple, spinach, kale, parsley, and lemon. I’ll be 100% honest with you. This drink is INCREDIBLE. I wouldn’t change a thing. Which is why I decided I’ll allow myself to splurge for this beverage now and then if I can squeeze it into my budget– it’s worth it.


Photo Credit: BluePrintCleanse


Another BluePrintCleanse staple is the BluePrint cashew milk. This drink is meant to be the main BluePrintCleanse protein source. It’s a filling combination of  organic cashews, filtered water, agave nectar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and organic vanilla bean bits. Now, instead of spending upwards of $12.99 per bottle for this drink (and because I don’t like agave nectar) I decided to swap this out for my own protein drink using Vega or Garden of Life protein powder (my favorites!), organic almond milk, and a couple teaspoons of chia seeds for good measure.


Aside from the high cost, I also didn’t think seven grams of protein two times a day would be enough to fill me up and keep me going around the clock and during my workouts. Instead, my protein shakes have between 15 and 17 grams of protein with a few additional grams added in thanks to the chia seeds (oh, and did I mention it costs under $40 for a few weeks worth of each of my fav proteins? Buy Vega and Garden of Life at your local Whole Foods or here and  here).


The last component of the BluePrintCleanse that I wanted to make-over was their Spicy Lemonade. Their version consists of filtered water, organic lemon, organic agave nectar, and cayenne extract (Mexican Habanero, jalapeño, African, Chinese, Thai, Korean, and Japanese peppers in distilled water, and grain alcohol). It also costs $6.99 a bottle. So, instead, I decided to make my own cheaper version using organic lemons, filtered water, stevia, and cayenne pepper.


Now, this particular drink is not a part of the Excavation Cleanse, but it is a part of their Renovation and Foundation Cleanses. The reason this is a cleanse-worthy drink? Lemons and cayenne pepper have a variety of health benefits and they have long been touted as weight loss and detox staples. I’ve outlined a few of these benefits below:




Photo Credit: wikimedia.org


  • Alkalizing: Even though lemons are acidic to taste, they are alkalizing for the body and help restore balance to the body’s pH.
  • Rich in vitamin C: Helps to protect you against colds, flu, infections and neutralize free radicals that can promote aging and other diseases.
  • Cleanses/detoxifies the liver: Lemon stimulates the liver and helps to rid it of uric acid, bile, fats, old cholesterol deposits, environmental toxins, and other poisons. When your liver is clogged with junk, it isn’t working efficiently and may lead to low energy and fatigue, weight gain, hormone imbalances, intolerance to alcohol or fatty foods, high cholesterol, headaches, skin irritation, nausea/bloating, PMS, aches/pains, and digestive complications.
  • Cleanses your bowels: Adding lemon to warm water helps to increase peristalsis in the bowels and eliminate waste.
  • Have 22 anti-cancer compounds: Lemons contain limonene oil which is believed to prevent the growth of cancer tumors in animals  and they also contain flavonol glycosides which have been known to stop cell division in cancer cells.
  • Anti-bacterial: Lemon juice has been known to destroy bacteria associated with malaria, cholera, diphtheria, and typhoid.
  • Reduces high blood pressure: Lemons contain vitamin P (bioflavinoids) which have been known to prevent internal hemorrhage and reduce BP.




Cayenne pepper:



Photo Credit: www.teenhealthsite.com






  • Curbs appetite: Studies have shown that consuming cayenne pepper can reduce appetite and curb cravings (especially for salty, fatty, and sugary foods).
  • Prevents blood sugar spikes: Over a period of time, continued consumption of cayenne pepper may improve insulin sensitivity of the body’s tissues and eventually, less insulin may be required in order to move glucose from the body’s blood to the tissues. This can reduces blood sugar spikes (aka crazy cravings!).
  • Thermogenic: Consuming cayenne pepper has a thermogenic effect on the body (due to capsaicin). It raises the body’s core temperature, potentially increasing the body’s metabolism (up to 20% according to some sources) and may increase its ability to burn stored fat.
  • Fights inflammation: Capsaicin is a potent inhibitor of substance P– a neuropeptide associated with inflammation. Consuming cayenne can help with treatment for sensory nerve fiber disorders and even arthritis.
  • Reduces cholesterol: Studies have shown that cayenne has cardiovascular benefits in that it can reduce triglyceride levels, blood cholesterol, and platelet aggregation. It also can help the body dissolve fibrin– a substance critical in blood clot formation.
  • Natural pain relief: Cayenne can help to improve cluster headaches and treat osteoarthritis pain.
  • Prevent stomach ulcers: Cayenne kills harmful bacteria and stimulates stomach cells to secrete protective juices that prevent ulcers from forming.
  • Immunity boosting: Cayenne is high in vitamin A (beta-carotene) which is a well-known anti-infection vitamin that is essential for healthy epithelial tissues (these tissues protect the body from germs that can enter through the mucous membranes like the nose, lungs, intestines, and urinary tract).
  • Relieves congestion: Cayenne stimulates secretions which can help to clear out your stuffy nose and lungs.


My Hot and Spicy Detox Lemonade is a great way to reap the benefits of both!


Now don’t get me wrong–lemons and cayenne pepper are NOT going to magically detoxify years worth of poor eating habits and  peel off unwanted pounds. However, I find sipping this drink throughout the day between meals  keeps me feeling light and refreshed and prevents those sugary snack attacks and cravings by the afternoon! Plus…it tastes pretty darn good :) .



Hot & Spicy Detox Lemonade

(makes 1 pitcher worth)





  • Three to four lemons
  • 8 cups of water
  • Cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • Stevia (to taste)
  • Ice


  • Squeeze lemons into a pitcher.
  • Add water.
  • Add cayenne pepper and stevia* to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of cayenne and add more depending upon how much you can handle).
*This lemonade should not be overly sweet– I use one and a half packets of stevia.


Forget sweet.


You’ll like it hot in no time ;)




Healthfully Yours,


Ashley Michelle






Thermogenics: Cayenne

Incredible Benefits of Detoxing your Liver

16 Health Benefits of Lemons

Purdue study: Cayenne

Cayenne and Blood Sugar

World’s Healthiest Foods: Cayenne