Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

I was inspired to write this by a friend…. she asked me a simple question the other day “how do you eat so healthy all the time?” Well it made me think… my first thought, ‘ha, uhm I am pretty sure all of the smores’ I consumed this summer do not fall into that healthy category!’ but then I answered “honestly, it is not that hard anymore, I just eat what makes me feel good, my body craves good food.” I can assure you… has NOT always been this way! Just a quick personal back story (and then I promise to get right to it!), a few years ago, I was struggling with extreme stomach pains, I went on a 4x a day medication. This medication made me feel tired and dizzy and I also had headaches a lot. I knew something had to change, I have always been pretty active, I enjoy working out, but my energy levels just really kind of sucked and I did not feel good. So I after some research, I decided I would start with changing my eating habits, focusing on minimizing processed foods. I figured it was easy enough and a good place to start. Well, I realized how much better my body felt from just that one small change and it motivated me to learn more, I was determined to get off from any prescription medication. I really made a lot of changes but gradually, over time, nothing super drastic and fast forward a couple years….I have now been off all medications for 3 years, I weigh the same as I did in high school, I feel the best I have felt in my life and 40 is staring me right in the face! Now my skin might be a bit wrinkly (thanks to high school tanning beds and tanning oils…gross!), I have cellulite in places that I have never had (thanks mom…genetics are amazing) but I know I am healthy.  I have the energy to workout 5-6 days a week because I am fueling my body with the nutrients I need and in reality that is what eating is for, fueling our bodies. Of course I still have ‘treats’ but for the most part, my body craves healthy foods because I got rid of all of the junk in my system, it knows what to do with real food and it likes it.

I could go on and on about all the bad foods, sodas, weight loss pills, energy drinks, etc. that are messing with our bodies but instead I want to focus on the positive things that I know, when I do consistently, make my body is happy! There are a million really, really good ‘eat clean’ and ‘get healthy’ websites and facebook/social media pages out there and a lot, by a lot, I mean millions of resources available and places you can go to find information on healthy eating (can someone say information overload?!?!?!)! The ideas and opinions are endless but the reality is that it all can be very overwhelming, especially if you are just trying to start somewhere to make a few changes to feel better. In my opinion, it is best to not over complicate….just make it easy!

So this week’s Top 5 are the five things that I do to fuel my body with the right stuff:

1) Always choose plain

Any time I am buying any type of yogurt, oatmeal, etc….I always buy plain. I know you are thinking really Tara….BORING…. but it is not boring at all! I add natural things like fresh fruits, veggies, raw nuts, raw local honey or fresh local maple syrup. It is so easy and incredibly delicious!  If you read the ingredients to the yogurt or oatmeal that has fruit added, it is downright scary! And then, the combine that with those that say fat-free and sugar free….the ingredients basically lists a bunch of toxic chemicals. I promise you that full fat and natural sugars (like the sugar found in fresh fruit) will not go right to your thighs!! Your body knows what to do with these things, our digestive system was built to process real food, not to process chemicals!

My favorite way to make yogurt or oatmeal, especially in the fall, is to cut up half of an apple (you can quick saute it in a pan with a little coconut oil and cinnamon or apple pie spice if you want it warm), add a handful of raw almonds (I am allergic to walnuts but those would be delicious too), sprinkle your spices and then drizzle raw honey…it tastes like apple pie a la mode! So so so easy, delicious and your body will absolutely love you! I challenge you to get creative, make your own recipes at home, it is really the best way to avoid all the added junk! Choose plain and then add your own seasonings! Have fun with it!

Black coffee with ‘Apple pie’ yogurt

2) Probiotics and Apple Cider Vinegar

My grandfather always took probiotics and drank apple cider vinegar. I thought it was so weird as a kid that he would do this but now, I know why! When I had a stomach-ache as a kid, my grandma always gave me these weird chewable things….now these weird chewy things (also known as acidophilus) are popular again along with a variety of probiotics because we finally realized that our body needs good bacteria. Due to the nature of how processed all of our foods are here in the mighty USA, the natural probiotics have been removed from a lot of foods. This my friends is a huge factor in our obesity crisis as well as our pharmaceutical nightmare, we are prescribed meds to treat symptoms of meds, to treat symptoms of meds….it goes on and on. I know the term ‘healthy gut’ is all the trend right now but it really does matter! I do strongly feel that medications are so quickly prescribed without looking at nutrition first. There are absolutely times when medications are needed but so many times I see people on a bunch of medications for side effects of other medications…it is a vicious cycle.

There are many brands to choose from on the market when it comes to both apple cider vinegar and probiotics but a couple of things you need to look for when choosing what works best for you:

  • Look for Raw when it comes to apple cider vinegar, it should not be clear and it is often a little ‘chunky’ at the bottom. Don’t be grossed out by it, it will be ok, I promise J I mix my vinegar with a little water and just drink it quickly. If you have trouble with the taste, you can mix it with a little lemon and cinnamon…but really just add a little water and suck it up 🙂
  • With Probiotics, looks for some of these strains: Lactobaccilus plantarum, Lactobaccilus acidophilus, Lactobaccilus brevis, Bifidobacterium lactis and Bifidobacterium longum. There are a lot of different strains that provide benefits, but these are the ones that are the best in supporting your body’s natural biology.
  • You can also find natural probiotics in dairy foods like buttermilk, some soft cheeses, fermented and unfermented milk, and kefir, as well as fermented foods like tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and some pickles.
  • Remember all probiotics are not created equal, if they do not have live strains in them then they are really wasting your money so I would suggest doing a little research and also trying a couple out. I don’t want to recommend any specific brand since I think everyone’s bodies are a little different but I will share that I drink Bragg’s Apple Cider vinegar every day in the morning and I also take probiotics every day. Currently my two favorite brands of Probiotics are Garden of Life Raw Probiotics (these are kept in the refrigerator) and I also like the ProBio5 by Plexus (mostly for traveling because they do not have to be refrigerated and they still have the good stuff).

3) Buy Non-GMO

Ok, ok, I know this is sounding trendy now but I truly believe, GMO’s are another contributor to our problem with obesity and overuse of medications. If you watch a few documentaries….it is scary. But for real, our bodies are having issues because they do not know how to process foods that have been genetically modified. It is super easy to find foods that are non-GMO…just look at the label or look for the word organic, if something is certified organic, it has to also be non-GMO. It is getting easier and easier to find non-GMO foods and I feel the more we support non-GMO company’s and farmers, the sooner this problem will be eliminated from our society. Again, I could go on and on but I will tell you 100%, when I cut GMO’s out or my diet, my body quit doing weird unexplained things (I will avoid a TMI moment here) and it has been happy ever since!

If you want to know more about GMO’s – I would suggest starting here:



4) Read ingredient labels

I try to stick to the 80/20 rule with ingredients of all of the food I eat. The rules I follow for at least 80% of my food are:

  • I must be able to pronounce all of the ingredients
  • There must be only 5 ingredients or less on the label
  • No ‘fake sugars’ or added sugars – sugars are hidden under a lot of crafty names…be on the lookout (see pic below)
  • Non-GMO and/or Organic
  • No processed flours
  • Very minimal added flavor, seasonings, sauces, no MSG, etc…you can add your own flavor from the spice cabinet!

Once you start actually reading labels, you will be surprised and maybe a little bit scared. A really good example is peanut butter…the only ingredient really should be peanuts….take a look and see what is in yours…it might be more than you expect! I know it seems like a simple task but if you do this and do it consistently, you will become more aware of what you are feeding your body and more aware of when you feel good and when you feel bad!! Everyone’s bodies react different to different foods so label reading is key to knowing what makes you feel good!

Can I get an Amen!
Just a few names for sugar….and there are even more!

5) 4×4 Fruit and Veggie Rule

This one is super simple but it works!! I try to eat at least 4 servings of fruits and 4 servings of veggies each day. When I feel snacky, I go first for a fruit or veggie if I have not got my 4 in yet for the day. Initially, when I started tracking how many fruits and veggies I was having each day, I was shocked to find out that I was sometimes only having one of each. I have always thought of myself as a pretty healthy eater but honestly, this is where I was lacking. I have found that when I make sure I get in the fruits and veggies before other snacks, I usually end up not eating other snacks because I am satisfied and full.  One way to make it easier is to cut up all my veggies and keep them easy to grab and always keep fruit visible! When you can see it, you will grab it first! Portion control is still important here…even with the good stuff!fruit

**disclaimer** I am not a nutritionist or an expert in any of this (but I do know a few good ones if you want references!!), I am just sharing what works for my body!

Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read. I am hoping, through sharing my ideas, I can help you to challenge yourself to try to make at least one small change to feel better and have more energy! The bottom line is that there is not a magic potion, pill, shake, bar or secret trick to healthy eating, just eat real food and go from there! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or want other ideas! I love to share!! There is so much happening around us (these crazy politics though…can that just be over soon?!?!)… let’s all just be kind, lift each other up, encourage one another, choose happy and enjoy today!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂



Breakfast Bliss

Breakfast Bliss

This week’s Top 5 is a little different than the usual! I am sharing with you my top 5 breakfasts that can be made in 5 minutes or less (well almost…)  I absolutely love to create and cook healthy foods. My mission is to find a healthy way to make good tasting, nutritional food spending less money and time than buying prepackaged grocery store food.  I could go on and on about prepackaged foods but the reality is most of them are full of a lot of chemicals and hidden fake sugars…empty non-nutritional calories. I found this picture and it sums it up so perfectly!!


It really is super easy to create your own meals with very little prepackaged/processed foods.  I wanted to share with you some of my favorite quick breakfast ideas that are high in protein and nutrients but low in complexity and time 🙂 I will keep it short and sweet!

Here is this week’s Top Five:

1) Eggs & Toast

I know, I know…eggs & toast seem like a given, old idea but here are a couple new ways to make eggs:

Just a couple notes first:

  • I use only organic and free range eggs, it is important and worth the extra $$ for my family (google it…or don’t if you don’t want to know the gross details). I buy local when I can and also like the Nellies Cage-Free brand that can be found in most grocery stores if I can’t buy local.
  • There are a few varieties of sprouted breads, I am a fan of Food for Life brand in the picture below, it is usually found in the organics freezer section at a store. There are several other brands from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc…I just don’t have one close so this is my favorite! Just look at the ingredients and make sure you know what everything is….I prefer brands that do not have any type of flour added.

 Microwave Egg Frittata with Sprouted Grain Toast

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp cottage cheese
  • 1 cup chopped bell peppers & fresh spinach

*Scramble all up with a fork in a microwave safe bowl. Micro for 1 minute, stir, then 1 more minute and BOOM…super tasty eggs cooked to perfection! (time may vary)

**You can use any veggies that you like or no veggies at all or you can cut them really small to sneak them in for your non-veggie loving kids J The cottage cheese alone makes the eggs super fluffy (thanks Gram Jean for teaching me that trick!)

***I use coconut oil on my toast versus butter, try it, it is delicious!eggs&toast

Boiled Eggs with Toast and Fruit

This seems easy enough but my mom taught me a super easy way to boil eggs! Put eggs in a pan and add just enough water to cover them. Put a lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Then turn burner completely off, leaving the pan on the stove for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water and then peel! They will be cooked perfectly and peel easily!boiledeggs

Egg Muffins

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper and onion (sometimes I add leftover broccoli or other veggies)

*Scramble all together, fill 12 muffin cups and bake on 350 for 10 min!

**2 muffins equal one serving and you can store in the fridge for the week, they heat up in 20 seconds in the micro to enjoy them throughout the week EggMuffins3


2) Protein Pancakes

Every now and then, I just need a good pancake! I made this creation and I absolutely love it and they are a hit with the kids which we all know can be tough getting the kids on board with healthy eating J Here is the double batch recipe:

  • 1 mashed banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 scoops vegan vanilla protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp Buckwheat flour
  • Optional – topped with almond butter & pure maple syrup

*Mix all ingredients together and cook a couple minutes on each side.

**See the pic for the brands I use of the protein, buckwheat and almond butter. The important things here are that the almond butter should be only almonds, no added junk! The maple syrup should be from a local farm/health food store if possible. And also, just a little FYI, buckwheat is not really wheat at all, it is actually a fruit seed. Buckwheat flour is just super fine ground up buckwheat. I love buckwheat for so many reasons, it is a great source of high quality protein that is naturally easy to digest, it is packed with antioxidants, it grows super easy so it is easy to find it chemical free, it is non allergenic and naturally gluten free for all my gluten sensitive friends! pancakes


3) Yogurt

Yogurt is always a quick and easy breakfast but here is my trick: I always buy plain yogurt, never, ever any added items and then add my own. When it comes to buying yogurt, I prefer Fage, Siggi, Stonyfield or Noosa brands. Here are a few of my favs but really they all start with ½ cup of yogurt, add fresh fruit, spices and raw nuts or seeds, then drizzle with honey of maple syrup if you need a sweetener. It is super simple and it saves you from so many fake sweeteners and junk calories!

Blueberry Chia Yogurt

  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 6-10 raw chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Drizzle raw honey or pure maple syrup


 Apple Pie Greek Yogurt

  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ½ chopped apple
  • ½  tsp apple pie spice blend or cinnamon
  • 6-10 chopped raw almonds
  • Drizzle raw honey or pure maple syrup



4) Protein Oatmeal

I make the oatmeal similar to the yogurt recipes above however I add about ¼ cup extra water to make it runny and then add a scoop of protein powder to add that extra kick of protein! My absolute favorite is chocolate coconut oatmeal so I have shared the recipe below, it reminds me of the coco wheats that my gram used to make for me when I stayed at her house….total comfort food yet super healthy!!!  You can make the blueberry chia or apple pie recipes above and replace the yogurt with oats and protein powder (I use the garden of life vanilla plant protein for those ones versus chocolate).

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal

  • ¼ cup quick cook steel cut oats
  • ½ – ¾ cup water
  • 1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder (I use shakeology)
  • 1-2 tsp unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 6-10 chopped raw almonds

*Cook oats in microwave for 1-2 minutes until tender, add in the rest of the ingredients and enjoy…yep it is that simple! If you need it a little more sweet initially, you can add raw honey or maple syrup but as you get your body used to not having sugars…you will not need to add any sweeteners 🙂



5) Blueberry Muffin Oatmeal Bars – say what?!?!

I have posted this recipe before and I seriously love it. These do take more than 5 minutes to make but having them prepped for a quick grab and go breakfast is perfect! They go great with coffee, they feel like you are having a not so healthy treat but they are packed full of nutritious goodness! If you need them to be a little sweeter, you can add a drizzle of raw honey after you cook them. Also, I keep them in the fridge and warm them up in micro for ~20 seconds. Oatbars


And if push comes to shove…..find a healthy cereal! Just look out for added sugars and crazy ingredients 🙂


I challenge you try at least one of these over the next couple weeks and get creative! In my mind, recipes are meant as a guideline to give you an idea and for you to add your own special twist to it! Start your day out right, enjoy your breakfast….it makes it easier to choose happy over hangry!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂



Diving headfirst into 2016!!

Diving headfirst into 2016!!

Happy New Year! 2015 came and went! I have spent the past few days reflecting on 2015 and I am thinking the one thing that has affected me the most is the fact that I now have THREE, yes… count them 1, 2, 3 TEENAGERS! Two are graduating within the next 18 months and one is technically an adult (GULP!)  I cannot describe the feeling, in my mind they are still these crazy cute adorable babies with big blue eyes!! I am in complete denial! This whole ‘mom of 3 teens’ is completely impossible since I am only 29l!! 😉

What a difference 10 years makes!!!

Before we get into this week’s top five, I need to talk about this a little more. Honestly, it kind of consumes my brain space way more than I ever imagined. Being a mom of teenagers is just as confusing as actually being a teenager!  My emotions are all over the place, we are all a mess, we all cry at the drop of a hat, we get mad or frustrated about things that most ‘normal’ people would not and we laugh about the craziest things! None of this makes sense!!

Can I just take them back to being 5, 8 & 9 when they were pretty much self-sufficient yet I could still control their every move? At the time, I remember wishing they could stay home alone or that they could drive to take the burden of taxi mom away but what I didn’t realize then was how precious of a time that was! That they were old enough to do so many things, young enough to still think I was one of the coolest people ever and still at a point in their lives where I could tell them exactly what to do and protect them from almost every weird crazy thing in the outside world. Fast forward to the lovely, strange world of teenage years….NO ONE WARNED ME!!! Or maybe they did and I choose to not listen because there was NO WAY that my teenagers would EVER act like ‘THOSE’ teenagers or that I would at all be emotional about it or that I would ever be ‘THAT’ mom who shouted things out the window as their child was driving away like ‘I LOVE YOU, PLEASE BE CAREFUL AND CALL ME AS SOON AS YOU GET THERE’ (in front of all of their friends)!!!  Hahahahahaha well….the joke was on me!! Now don’t get me wrong, I think my kids are turning out to be respectful, productive little human beings but they still have A LOT to learn…lots of myelination still needs to happen for them!

I am trying to embrace my new role as mom of teenagers which no longer includes telling them when to take a bath, brush their teeth, eat dinner, go to bed (well sometimes they (Alex) still need reminders ;)), what clothes to wear, what our plans are for the weekend are, etc.. I now have the roles of hormonal counselor, how to deal with broken relationship/ friendship heartaches advice giver, family schedule master, frequent ‘make the right choices’ and ‘please drive safely, no texting’ reminder lady, lay awake in bed thinking through all of the absolute worst possible scenarios until each one of them walks through the door at night thinker, daily life encourager and cheerleader, and the very hard but it is a must…the ‘letting-goer’. Letting your child make decisions, mistakes and letting them learn things the hard way is one of the most difficult parts of all of this parenting of teenagers.

Now don’t get me wrong, every stage of parenting has its pluses and minuses! When my friends that are now just having babies or have crazy toddlers are struggling with all the new baby  and toddler stuff…I know, understand and appreciate how tough all of that is!!  I guess maybe in my mind looking back it was easier because it was expected. (I use the term ‘easier’ VERY lightly friends!!) It seems that just no one tells you how much more exhausting mental/emotional parenting of teens will be than hands-on parenting of babies, toddlers and small children!!! No one tells you that when you think diapers and formula are expensive that you have no idea what is coming when you have to feed 3 adult sized children (and all of their friends/boyfriends/girlfriends…basically like a pack of ravished wolves) who have crazy high metabolisms. Or no one tells you that you will miss being able to tell your children exactly what to do, who they can hang out with, how to do things, when to do things…somewhere along the line, they tune all of that out, they want to be independent thinkers and you have to hope and pray that all those years of hands-on parenting have paid off….it is just the most crazy out of control feeling and I am holding on for dear life !!! #yesIhavecontrolissues

Some things still apply to all stages of parenting:kids funny

Our family is far from perfect, in fact we are probably pretty dysfunctional but it is our normal, at the end of the day no matter how much the kids have been bickering with each other, no matter who is mad at who, no matter what the ‘disaster of the day’ was….we all have each other’s backs and have learned how important kindness, grace and forgiveness is, we all love each other and have learned how to show love, we have a lot of personal inside family jokes and we know how to laugh and smile through the good, the bad and the ugly. These things are important in the big picture of life and I have to remind myself daily that we will all be OK!

Now, after I wipe away the tears from today’s emotional teenager roller coaster…Here is this week’s Top Five:

1) Coconut Oil Coffee

I know, I know…this sounds crazy! But it is one of my absolute favorite treats! I am an absolute coffee lover and a religious black coffee drinker. To me, anything in my coffee just covers up the tasty goodness of the coffee (I have shared my favorite coffee brands in past blogs if you want to know my favs!). But adding a some coconut oil to my coffee as my afternoon treat has become one of my new favorite things. It tastes so delicious and creamy and has some amazing nutritional benefits (google it…you will find lots of articles!), it provides  a little does of healthy fat/protein for my afternoon snack, curbs my sweet cravings and of course gives me a little midday pick me up.

This is how I make it ~ Brew a cup of hot coffee, add 2-3 tsp of coconut oil (*see disclaimer below J), add both to mini blender, blender for 30 seconds (**see my second disclaimer!), pour back in my coffee mug and BAM! A hot cup of deliciousness!CoconutCoffee

*Not all coconut oils are created equally! Look for organic, unrefined and pure (it should smell like coconuts!) A few good brands are Nutiva, Trader Joe’s, Garden of Life…just read the label!

**Super hot coffee in a blender may cause a small explosion and giant mess (I mean, I have heard this can happen, I wouldn’t know from experience or anything!! haha)…let it cool just for a minute or so or add half of the cup of coffee to blender with oil and then pour the blended mixture over the black coffee to fill your cup back up (it will then look like a pretty latte…and you will feel fancy!)

2) For The Love

Ok so THIS BOOK….Hilarious, uplifting, emotional, spiritual, every mom should read it if you want to laugh about the everyday life of just being a mom. I completely have a girl crush on Jen Hatmaker…not in ‘that’ kind of way but in a ‘I really want to be friends with her’ kind of way J She just gets me….well maybe she doesn’t even know me (yet….) #Iamnotastalkerreally….but if she did, I am sure we would be besties….LOL   Anyway,  I could go on and on about this book, I have now read it 2x through and pick it up every now and then to just read a chapter because I love it so much! Instead of going on and on…here are a couple exerts…and the link for you to go buy it because I know you want to! #ForTheLove #JenHatmaker

From Chapter 2 ‘On Turning Forty’

“I am experiencing trauma and am unsure what to do. It blindsides me constantly, assaulting me when I am unaware and uprepared. Every time, I am left reeling and need to lie down to recover. I never get used to it, and each time it happens is like the first time.

I keep seeing someone’s old lady hands sticking out of my sleeves.

There I am, just going about my work , and BAM. Old-lady hands typing.  Reaching for my dishes and KAPOW. Old-lady hands cooking. These hands are quite confusing, with their veins and sunspots and loose skin. What in the actual heck? Whose grandma hands are wearing my jewelry? More specifically, how did my mother’s exact hands relocate to my body?”

From Chapter 9 ‘Hope for Spicy Families’

“Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That their childhood is mostly good. People, I declare “mostly good” a raging success. If I am mostly patient and they are mostly obedient, great. If we are mostly nurturing and they turn out mostly well-adjusted, super. Every childhood needs a portion of lame, boring, aggravating, and tedious. Good grief, life is not a Nickelodeon set. They need something to gripe about one day.”

I wish I could share the entire book, but there are laws and things against that and I would not want to offend my new BFF 😉 so you just really need to buy the book, make a cup of coconut oil coffee and curl up next to the fire and be prepared to laugh, cry and feel encouraged….You will LOVE it and if you don’t…well then you can blame me for making a horrible recommendation and talk about how horrible it was to your friends and I will just smile, show grace, love you anyway and continue to type with my old-lady hands! #ForTheLove ForTheLove

3) Homemade Protein Bars

Over the past year, I began experimenting with making my own protein bars because:

  • protein bars are expensive
  • they are full of unnecessary junk
  • it is all a marketing ploy, no one needs 780 grams of protein in one bar
  • most of them taste like the sole of a shoe or they are so full of fake, artificial sugar that you can literally feel the aspartame destroying your body
  • because being in the kitchen and creating fun things is my therapy

Now there are some really good ones on the market and I will buy them from time to time when I am in a rush, traveling or just am not in the mood for bar making (I will share my favorites in another blog) I have had some horribly failed attempts but I have also had some really, really good ones so I wanted to share a couple! Each of the recipes below are for a single bar (they take less than 5 min to make) but you can double, triple, quadruple the recipe to make more at a time if desired! Also, you can see they all really have the same/similar base ingredients so have fun with it and get creative! I have several others I have tried but these 3 are my favorites:

 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
2 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 heaping tbsp ground raw almonds
2 tsp raw cacao chips

Chocolate Coconut
1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder
2 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp unsweetened raw shredded coconut
2 tsp ground raw almonds

Coconut Cashew
1 scoop vegan vanilla protein powder
2 tsp raw honey
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp finely chopped raw cashews
1 tbsp unsweetened raw shredded coconut

~Melt coconut oil & honey, add in protein powder and the rest of the ingredients, blend well. Form into shape of a bar and place in the refrigerator to chill (letting the coconut oil & honey setup) and then enjoy!

*I microwave the honey and coconut oil for 20-30 seconds to melt.
**When it comes to protein powders, there are a lot of good ones and a lot of bad ones (I will do a top 5 of my favorites another time!!) but for this recipe I use Garden of Life brand or vegan Shakeology
***Message me if you have questions on making any of these, I would love to help!

My Thrive Market order for bar making (and coffee !)

4) Paper Plates

My environmentally friendly friends don’t freak out….I am talking about paper plates and fitness! I know it sounds crazy but you really can do all kinds of things with paper plates for core, arm, leg and ab work and how accessible, cheap and easy to find are paper plates!?!?! #noexcuses

Here are a few of my favorite moves (they probably have technical names but these are what I call them). Challenge yourself to complete all 4 for 1 minute each x5 rounds!

Swimming Frog Legsswimmingfrogs Start in plank, pull legs up toward chest, push legs out to side, back to regular plank, then pull knees up again

Single Arm Pushouts (Double arms are good but I don’t want to be liable for any faceplanting so work your way up to that!)plankspushuouts

Start in plank and push one arm out as far as you can and then slide arm back, focusing on maintaining good plank form, not moving lower body and keeping your butt flat. Switch sides after 30 seconds


Start on back in elevated bridge position, slide both feet out, keeping your booty off the floor and then slide feet back toward butt. Modification is to slide legs out/back one at a time.

Kingpin lunges (get it…the bowler lunge reference)Kingpin lunges

In single leg squat position, slide opposite leg out to side and then behind you into a ‘bowler’ position. Repeat on same side for 30 seconds then switch.

I expect all of you to be busting out some mini paper plate workouts on your lunch break, when watching tv or at a party…people will think your awesome (or weird…but they will talk about it for a long time J)

 5) Amazon Prime

Oh Amazon Prime…I love and hate you all at the same time. First, I need to thank you for saving my butt on so so many last minute gifts! This past Christmas would have been a total bust without you! I have great intentions of being ultra-organized but seriously, 2 day shipping is THE BEST and worth my entire membership fee to just have that benefit! But what I did not know until this year is about some other awesome benefits of Amazon. I may be the only one who didn’t know all of these things but I was excited when I found out! (I know there are more, but these are my favs!)

~ Music – there are thousands and thousands of songs you can download for free, create playlists, listen to suggested playlists and really just meet all of your musical ADD needs! With teaching fitness classes this has been my $$$ saver! I am always looking for new music and I was buying it from iTunes, a few songs a week so when I do the math, I will be making money each year by having Prime Music!

~Movies/TV shows – I HAD no idea. Thankfully I have smart teenagers who informed me that not only did we have access to hundreds of movies and TV shows on Amazon but that we didn’t need to rent them because we could watch them all for free with our streaming devices (with 3 teens, this house is full of them…iPads, iPhones, Mac Books, Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Chromecast…I will stop because honestly, this list is ridiculous…maybe we have a problem!!!)

~2-Day Shipping – did I mention 2 day shipping ?!?!?! #lifesaver

~Product suggestions – so I totally know that this is a trap, a way to get you to buy more, but I fall for it every time because whatever software/robot/gnome/elf that they have making suggestions sure does a nice job of telling me what socks would pair perfectly with my order of new workout shoes J I fall for it more than I should but I am not ashamed to admit it and how could I say no when I love the feeling of new socks and I can have them delivered to my door, in 2 days, for free!!

Anyway, I know it has been around for a while but kudos to Amazon for continually making Prime better for their members, providing great customer service and hiring super tech and fashion savy elves/gnomes to make sure that my new socks and shoes are delivered to my front door just in time for my next workout!

*In no way am I being paid by Amazon to promote them, however that would be totally awesome if I was!! #AmazonPrime


Thank you all for taking a few minutes of your day to read this! I just want to leave you with one last thing because it is the New Year and I know a lot of people set goals to improve their health and fitness, I am making it to my goal to help others by sharing some of my tips and tricks with health and fitness so this is the last year they have to set those goals!!! Last year, I crushed some of my personal goals, one of which was becoming a certified fitness instructor. When it comes to health and fitness,  I am not claiming to be an expert by any means but I am very passionate about it and just love to share what works for me in order to help others take back control of their lives!!! When I changed my lifestyle really focusing on making health and fitness a priority for me, I learned that I really enjoy life so much more because I feel good! I would love for everyone to feel this good and I want to show you that it is possible through all of our crazy busy lives and schedules! Here is the truth, there is no magic pill, potion, machine, device (seriously though that ab stimulator electric belt thing makes me laugh every single time!) that will make you fit and healthy…YOU have to do the work! It is only through regular exercise (which can totally be fun!!), getting outdoors and enjoying this world we live in, and learning that healthy food is fun, easy to make and tastes amazing!! Listen, you don’t have to eat only lettuce, spinach and kale to be healthy! There are a lot of incredible food options out there! Throughout this next year, I will working helping others by sharing tips through my blog, forming some mini goal setting/accountability groups as well as some hardcore, serious (seriously fun and motivating J) GoalDigger groups or personal coaching where we will set personal health and fitness goals and I will be there to motivate, encourage, provide guidance and lift you up to feel empowered to take back your health and live life to its fullest! Stay tuned for more details!! Goals

Next week I will have a special version of Top 5 with Tara…It will be my healthy breakfast edition focusing on my Top 5 nutritious and tasty breakfasts that are ready in 5 minutes or less! Have a great weekend!

I challenge you to choose to one happy thing every day for 2016!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy J


Week 2: Feeling Thankful


Welcome back friends and Happy November! I hope you are all having a fabulous week! This week has been a little crazy (ok, A LOT crazy) around here but overall I just feel thankful for everyone and everything I have in my life.

November is one of my favorite months for so many reasons! I just absolutely love the fall weather, Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday (you will have to keep reading to find out my first favorite), nature is at its peak beauty in the fall, the men have this no-shave thing going on and I am a fan of facial hair (but only on men..haha!!) and yes, I am one of those people who happens to love pumpkin treats! I know, I know, a lot of them are super bad for us!  Even though pumpkins are technically a fruit, I am pretty sure once they are turned into a cake or a pie or a cream cheese muffin or a pumpkin spice latte…they lose a little of that nutritional value 😉 I have been experimenting on some recipes that are pumpkin related that maybe I will share next week!  I still have some perfecting to do before I share them but until then…here is this week’s Top Five:

1) Coffee

So if you have been around me for any period of time, you know I have a love (ok maybe an obsession) with coffee! I drink way too much of it and completely justify that with mostly drinking it just straight black, so it is really just water and beans, which is healthy right? 🙂 But in all seriousness, I do love a good dark roast from Starbucks however honestly, with the amount of coffee I drink; I cannot afford to drink that much Starbucks, even just the black coffee and not even the crazy venti soy almond mocha latte foo-foo lala drinks! So that being said, I am always looking for really good tasting dark roast coffee for a good price that I can make at home.   Recently, I have come across these 2 brands: Trader Joe’s Bay Blend and Wesley Farms Sumatra Estate (from BJ’s Wholesale Store). Both are super enjoyable and are $6-7 less a pound than Starbucks! With the amount of coffee I drink, this is a huge savings! So for all of my highly caffeinated friends…I wanted to share the love of my new favorite ways to caffeinate! Disclaimer…The Thanksgiving Blend Dark Roast from Starbucks did come out this week so I have been splurging on that and it is still at the top of my list as far as dark roast coffee is concerned!


2) Walgreens

Yes, I know this is strange that Walgreens is one of my favorites this week but I have been there A LOT over the past couple of weeks!! I have had time to kill while waiting on prescriptions or waiting for Ava to finish dance class (Walgreens is across the street) and I have found some super awesome gems and deals at Walgreens!! Here are a few of my favorites:

~ Pink Grapefruit Method All-Purpose cleaner – it smells amazing, it is all natural and non-toxic and it does a really nice job of spot cleaning stovetops, linoleum floors and counter tops!


~ Clearance section  & sale items– at the end of every aisle is where they put all the random clearance items and I have picked up all kinds of things from ibuprofen to makeup to tissues for ¼ of the original price! If you have a few extra minutes to wander around Walgreens, I recommend checking it out. Also, when Walgreens has sales on things like cereal, cleaning supplies and beauty items, they really put them on sale. Alex pretty much eats a box of cereal everyday (oh how nice it would be to have the metabolism of a teenage boy!) and I bought 4 boxes of Life cereal for $1.15 each between the sale price and coupons… that should last me at least half of this week 😉

~ Leggings – say what?!?! Yes, Walgreens has leggings and let me tell ya, they are actually comfortable and pretty decent quality! I bought them to wear around the house and clean in when I was doing some clearance shelf shopping  and they now are part of my regular attire. Initially, I was kind of embarrassed to say I bought an article of clothing at Walgreens but then thought…who cares right!?!?! So yes, there is a chance that when you see me, I could be rocking a pair of Walgreen’s leggings…let’s just pretend you don’t know, give me a smile and compliment me on my cute leggings. It is leggings weather so let’s rock them (but not as pants….leggings still are not pants!)

3) My friend Somer & her Productivity Academy

My friend Somer Phoebus is truly just an amazing person!! She inspires me to be successful, strong, motivated, reach for my goals, she completely has a huge heart for Jesus, she is one of the most giving people I know, she loves on my Ava as if she were her own…..I could go on and on about her but I will stop now so it doesn’t get creepy!! I just am truly thankful that God placed her in my life when He did!! That being said, she runs this groups called the ‘Productivity Academy’ and for the entire month of October, I participated in this group. Let me just tell you, if you are struggling with getting things organized in your life, you cannot afford to not do it! In a short 30 days, I complete remodeled my office (see the pic below), learned the importance of brain dumping, an organized workspace and also learned how to prioritize and juggle all of the areas of my life. Between my 3 kids and their schedules, 3 jobs and all of the other regular ‘life stuff’, I was feeling overwhelmed and like my life was out of control. This academy really helped me get a handle on things and I now feel like I am able to juggle all of these things more effectively and efficiently! She also is a great fitness and health girl so I recommend checking out her website or her Facebook page Somer Dawn! Sign up for her free newsletter for amazing productivity and fitness tips as well as some healthy recipes.

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4) Planks

Yes, yes…I said planks! Why are they my favorite? Well one, because they are so dang effective at working all parts of your body while being low impact; two, because there are about a bazillion ways and alternations of a plank you can do to work your entire body and three, because you can do them anywhere, without equipment (although you do kinda look like a weirdo planking in the middle of the mall!) 😊 My favorite planks of this week: (my girls in my November ‘Thanks & Planks’ challenge group are loving them with me!)

~ Bridge plank to high plank walkouts – Start in a bridge plank position, come up to a straight elbow plank, walk your hands forward, then back to straight elbow plank, then back down to bridge plank


~ Bridge plank with hip taps – holding bridge plank, tap your hips to the ground alternating left to right


~ Side plank star crunch (no…we are not eating a star crunch while doing side planks!!) – hold a side plank, either with elbow straight or in bridge position, lift your top arm and leg toward the ceiling (star position), pull your elbow toward your knee for the ‘crunch’, extend back to star position, then lower your top arm and leg back down (continue each side for 30 seconds then switch)


For a little fitness challenge – complete all of these for a minute each, with a 15 second rest break in between (repeat 3 times!) Focus on keeping your body as flat as possible, pulling your belly button towards your spine!

5) PB&J Muffins

Seriously….LOVE THESE!!! I posted these at the beginning of the school year and I continue to love them as a treat! They are really really tasty and kid approved! Recipe cred to The Detoxinista…If you do not follow her on social media, I recommend that you do! She has soooooo many awesome recipes! She also shared one this week for these Holiday Cookie bars that looks amazing! I will try them out this week, using my family as taste test Guinea pigs as usual and if they turn out as amazing as they look, I will let you know!!


Lastly, I hope you are enjoying the unseasonably warm start to November! I wanted to give a little shout out and share this cute pic my mom sent me from northern Michigan of my dad kayaking and beachgoing in the 70 degree November weather! They are on my favorites list every week because a) I would not be here without them b) they inspire me and support me every single day and c) how stinking cute are they?!?!?!

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I challenge you to find something to be thankful for every day this week!!

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy 🙂


Welcome to My First Blog!

Hi friends!! I am so happy you are here! I am really kind of excited about writing my first blog.  I am sure that puts me up on some ‘way behind the times’ list or ‘super dork’ list but I am excited! This has been on my heart for a long time and I am finally moving forward with it. People are often asking me for recipes, where I bought certain things, for fitness and nutrition tips, etc.. so my plan with this blog is to share my weekly ‘Top Five’ random favorite things with you! I first want to thank you for reading, I hope you enjoy it! If you don’t, just look at it like you would a magazine while standing in line at a grocery store, scroll really fast to the pictures or just put it down and move on to the candy! Second, I am just giving you a heads up, I will be writing from the heart and whatever comes to mind at the moment. This means that these blogs will not always have the best grammar, they will have far from perfect spelling and also just know, I have a love for exclamation points, which I realize can be annoying!!!!!!! I will try to be careful and please know that I am often annoyed too, especially at the incorrect use of ‘seen’ and ‘there, their and they’re’ but I sometimes fail with proper grammar and punctuation so this is just a fair warning! If you are annoyed, I apologize now!!!!!!

Here is a little back story on the reason I chose the name ‘Top Five with Tara’.  My vision for this blog was to share a bunch of my favorite things with friends. It was that simple! My first thought was that I was  going to call it ‘Raindrops on Roses’ (song break – My Favorite Things/Sound of Music) but then I started thinking …which is never good! My thought process went like this: “I really prefer tulips over roses but ‘Raindrops on Tulips’ does not have a good ring to it.”  Then I broke into song and got stuck on ‘Whiskers on Kittens’ and thought ‘oh wait, kitten whiskers kind of freak me out.  I am not sure why, I think it is because they are so long yet have such an important function and what if humans used whiskers?!?!?’ Then I got into bright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages…all of which sounds delightful but it made me start thinking about how I was cold and could use some hot tea and the package I forgot to pickup at the post office. So you see, I decided that since my ADD went into full effect with that title, I needed to figure out something else. I was in a business meeting with a friend and we were talking about our priorities, dreams, passions, really just a lot of life stuff, and she challenged me to come up with my personal vision statement. I thought and prayed about it for a while. Finally, funny enough, I actually woke up in the middle of the night with this statement and wrote it down: “My vision of a successful life is effectively juggling Faith, Framily, Fitness, Food and Fun, giving each one my time and energy when it is their time to shine.” These five things are my ‘Top 5’ list of what is most important to me. So in thinking of a name for this blog, I went back to that and decided to go with my Top Five with Tara, at least it would give me some direction 🙂

So let’s do this….This week’s Top Five:

#1 Peanut Butter Oatmeal Protein Bars

I love to create healthy recipes, all kinds of recipes, from snacks, to meals, to baked goods, to smoothies…I just love to find creative new ways to make healthy food that tastes delicious! Now, this does not always turn out how I envision it, I have lots of kitchen fails and also a lot of things I make get an ‘Are you serious?’ or a ‘I am not trying that’ look from my kids! This week, I created a recipe that ended up being healthy, packed with protein AND better yet, kid approved (they actually ate them all in two days and then requested me to make more!) #momwin


Here is the recipe for you to enjoy:

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Protein Bars

1c Natural Peanut Butter

½ c Pure Maple Syrup

1 Egg

3 Scoops Vegan Vanilla Protein Powder

½ c Raw Shredded Coconut

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 ½ – 2 c Quick Cook Steal Cut Oats

½ c Chopped Raw Peanuts (optional)

Blend all together well and bake on 350 for 15 minutes.

(The brands of my ingredients were: Justin’s natural peanut butter that only has peanuts as the ingredient, the maple syrup is from a local farm,  ‘Raw Fit’ Vegan Vanilla Protein, Bob’s RedMill Organic shredded coconut and oats)

#2 Thrive Market

Now there are a lot of places to buy organic, non-GMO, no junk added food but recently I came across Thrive Market and absolutely love it! So the deal with Thrive is that you pay an annual membership fee (like you would at Costco, Sam’s, etc) and you can buy a large variety of healthy packaged foods and products for the entire family (even your pets) at a discounted price, delivered to your door for free when you order $50 (which is easy to do!). I still shop local for produce and the grocery store for other items but for me, the convenience of having these items that I frequently use in my recipe creations delivered to my door is worth the membership fee alone, the discounted products are a bonus! I absolutely love the mission and passion of this company. They give a free membership to a low income family for every membership that is purchased. They are currently working with the government to be the first online food market that can accept food stamps. I am so excited for this and am so passionate about providing access to healthy foods for everyone! I highly recommend checking them out if you have a chance, your first month is free and honestly, it is so worth it! Also, if you are on their website, check out the interview with their CEOs, they have an awesome blog and they also post lots of recipes too!

#3 Rocky Mountains

I recently went on vacation to visit my bestie, Mel, who just happens to live in one of the prettiest and most peaceful places on earth: The Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Now listen, I still think Michigan wins the prize for the prettiest state, but being up in the mountains of Colorado is just an incredible feeling, you can’t explain it unless you have been there. My recommendation is to make sure it is on your bucket list and get there sooner than later! It is beautiful and has tons of activities to do in any season…just go, I am telling you , you will not regret it!! If you need ideas of where to go when you are there, let me know, I have some connections who can hook you up!! Here are a few of my favorite places:

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10-Count Bodybuilders

For any of you that have attended one of my circuit training or my latest cardio kickboxing classes…you know what this means…we love them and hate them all at the same time! Thanks to my favorite Navy SEAL vet 😉 for introducing me to these amazingly challenging and strangely fun ‘burpees on crack’! It is basically a burpee with jack feet and 2 push-ups in the middle of it, no big deal right?!?! … well except for when you do as many as possible for 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, etc… I promise, you will feel some muscles that you did not know existed!! They go like this:

  1. Start in standing position, place hands on floor
  2. Jump down into plank position
  3. Jack feet out (in plank)
  4. Jack feet in (in plank)
  5. Push-up (down position)
  6. Push-up (back to plank position)
  7. Push-up (down again)
  8. Push – up (back to plank position)
  9. Jump feet in
  10. Jump up (reach towards ceiling)

Napoleon Dynamite

Ok, ok, yes, Ava is making my favorites list this week. Not at all saying I have a favorite child (NOT AT ALL, Alex and Andie are my favorites too!) but this week Ava did something completely amazing in my eyes and she deserves a shout out! She decided that not only was she going to dress as Napoleon Dynamite for ‘Dress Like a Celebrity’ night for LifeHouse Student Ministry (LSM), she also decided to take it one step up, get into full character mode and learn the entire dance. Now for all of you Napoleon fans, you know this dance! It is awkward yet amazing and hilarious! Now this girl, my Ava, dedicated an entire week to learning this dance to perform in front of all of LSM, we are talking 60+ kids and adults. Now I don’t know about you but I am pretty sure that when I was in 7th grade, I would not have had the courage to stand up and perform in front of 60+ high school and middle schoolers. She had so much fun with it and it just made me so happy in so many ways. It may seem silly and minor but in the big life picture, she learned so many things that she cannot even comprehend at her age. For her, it was a fun performance. For me, I see a tween girl, who displayed dedication, courage, strength, and confidence that is way larger than performing that dance on stage! She taught me a lot of life lessons this week regarding ‘just going for it’ when you have an idea, a passion or a vision. As a mom, watching your child accomplish something that they work for and seeing a giant smile on their face is a mom win! She ended up winning the costume contest which included a Starbucks gift card, that she wanted to treat me with for ‘buying her costume and encouraging her practices’. Seriously, this girl, she continues to amaze me with the goodness in her heart! Side note, I hope you enjoy your Halloween with your kiddos, in a blink of an eye, they get big and you will be looking back at pictures of when they were little and cute and not ‘too cool for Halloween’ teens! I included this little #TBT of Alex and Andie for the cuteness factor (and to make sure they didn’t feel slighted that Ava made the list this week..haha)

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Well friends, that is all for this week! If you made it all the way through my first blog, I seriously thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it! I challenge you to find joy in at least one thing every day this week 🙂

Enjoy Today ~ Choose Happy