Healthy hair, skin, and nails — My tips and tricks!

Well…. it has been a hot minute since I decided to jump on here. What can I say guys? Sometimes my creative juices just aren’t flowing. When blogging becomes a hassle or isn’t enjoyable is when I know I need to take some time off… so that’s what I did!

Since I haven’t posted in a while I thought I would dive into a hot topic that effects me personally. When it comes to having healthy hair, skin, and nails I have historically struggled in all three areas. I know there are bigger issues in the world for many people, but when you are a young girl in college having pieces of hair fall out continuously when showering can not only be stressful, but something that I began to dread on a daily basis. Not only was my hair thin and frail, I also had constantly wear nail polish to hide the brittle pieces of nail that would flake off on a daily basis. You know those people that bride themselves on perfectly manicured nails and long flowing locks of air… I definitely was NOT one of those people.

To top off the cosmetic pitfalls that I experienced as a young adult, I also suffered from terrible acne throughout my teen years. Talk about a way to decreased a ones self esteem. Acne will definitely do that, and I definitely had my trying moments where the only solution I could think on was caking on make-up to try to hide the little bumps that made me dread leaving my bedroom. I tried everything in the book from scrubs to medicated facial washes and had little to no success. Little did I know at the time that likely a lot of my skin issues were exacerbated by my typical crappy teenage diet of sugary frappuccinos and weekly blizzards from Dairy Queen.

I have definitely come a long way, especially over the past 3 years since moving to Arizona. Moving to a desert climate with dry air and excessive heat gave me a long list of new and different challenges to keep my hair, skin, and nails looking and feeling healthy. A lot of my issues with hair and nails throughout college were also a result of poor dietary choices (or what I thought were good dietary choice), i.e. minimal protein in my diet (does powdered PB count as protein? HA!), minimal healthy fats, and likely many nutrient deficiencies that I so cluelessly ignored or didn’t even think to check when I was vegetarian (and not a good one at that). While I was consuming nutrient dense foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains), I was definitely lacking variety, scared of too much fat, and did not work hard enough to assure my body was getting good sources of protein on a daily basis.

With the changes I have made with my diet and general cosmetic care over the past 3 years, I have definitely seen great improvement in all of these areas of my body. My hair, while still taking a lot of work to feel “thick” and full, grows much faster and looks and feels healthier. My nails grow faster than I can keep up with, and while I still get an annoying blemish every now and then, my overall complexion has improved more that I could have hoped. I am going to share with you 5 of my personal tips for maintaining good hair, skin, and nails. While some of them may seem obvious, and some have nothing to do with nutrition at all, I understand the desperate feeling that many women go through when one of these areas of their body are making them feel self conscious. My tips are super easy and truly have helped me gain more confidence in these areas, and while they may not work for everyone, they may just be the starting point you need for your own beauty upkeep!

1. Hydrate — with WATER!

Remember when I said these were obvious? If there is one thing I can stress about living in a dry climate, it is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. My skin becomes a dry and itchy mess when I don’y hydrate well. Lotion can only do so much to hydrate when you live in 100 + degrees, and truly the only thing I have found to help with my completion in this new climate is water. Another great thing about drinking water is it replaces other sugary beverages that you may consume instead. Sugar is a huge trigger for my complexion. Around the holidays when sweets and specialty cocktails are at every holiday party or function, I often notice blemishes begin to pop up out of no where. If I take a few days to drink a lot of water and stay aways from all other beverages (besides coffee of course) and sugary snacks, my face typically clears up on its own!

2. Daily dose of fat — avocado, olive oil, egg, and/or nuts.

Vitamin E, which is found in a variety of cooking oils, fish, nuts, etc, is an essential nutrient that plays a role in skin health and has anti-aging effects against every day stressors on the skin (hard water, sun exposure, air pollutants, etc). As with any essential nutrient, I try to always obtain adequate amounts of nutrients through food first. Not only can these foods help keep skin feeling smooth and healthy, they also help my hair grow. I love to throw avocado in my smoothies to assure I am getting in ample amounts of fat in my diet that help keep my thin hair feeling fuller and stronger. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce breakage and encourage new growth from the hair follicle.

3. Learn to love dry shampoo!

For so many years I was adamant about washing my hair daily. I think it came with playing sports… I hated when my hair felt sweaty or greasy! It didn’t help that dark hair showed every little bit of oil that would come from the roots, and before I started using dry shampoo this would make me feel dirty no matter how much a cleaned my actual body. I started to “train” my hair about 3 years ago when I figured out that washing my hair multiple times per day in Arizona was a recipe for disaster. I slowly worked my way to every other day and then every 3 days when I wasn’t running or training for a race. The more I tried to stretch the time between hair washes, the less greasy my hair would become. I know it sounds crazy…. but I truly believe I trained my hair! When in doubt, top buns and hats became my best friends! I brush my hair every night before bed to try to rid any dirt or particles from the strands before getting into bed. Another quick hair tip — I stopped sleeping with my hair in pony tails! Pony tails or buns when sleeping can promote hair breakage, especially if you already have thin or frail hair. If it is REALLY hot, sometimes I will braid my hair to get it out of my face while I sleep!

4. I wear sunscreen…. every day.

Even days when I not really outside, I always put sun protectant on my face. I use BB cream from covergirl every morning which is a tinted moisturizer with sunscreen in it. I started doing this when I moved to Arizona and really try to be adamant about it even on days where I am home and don’t really put on make-up. The more sun-exposure my face gets, the more spotty and dry it becomes!

5. Collagen in my coffee!

I recently starting using collagen peptides after hearing lots of chatter about the benefits it has for hair, skin, and nails. Most of the research I have read with collagen is in regards to anti-aging of skin and increasing nail growth. In simplest terms, collagen is protein that binds tissue together within the body. “Peptides” are basically the building blocks of collagen, or short chain amino acids that bind together to form collagen strands. As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of meat and can’t eat seafood, I saw this product as an easy way to increase my protein intake!


Stay Happy & Hydrated!

Happy Wednesday friends! It is officially summer over here in the dusty, dry desert(at least it feels like it). Thankfully Arizona is easing us into summer this year. Instead of blasting us with mid 100’s all day, we at least still have some cool mornings and cooler evenings to keep us sane!

Never the less a few weeks ago I started feeling dry. What do I mean by “dry”? To start, I was super tired… all the time. No matter how much sleep I got I was waking up groggy and going to bed earlier and earlier. My lips felt chapped and my head felt foggy. I was so unmotivated to do anything after work because all I wanted to do was hit the couch and relax. On top of this, I would get random occurrences of nausea and my muscles felt achey and tight. I knew immediately that I wasn’t hydrating myself well because this also happened to me shortly after moving to Arizona.

Summer months in the desert are HARD! It is almost harder with having a little relief in the mornings and late evenings because it makes me more inclined to spend time outdoors when I can. The dry air sucks every little bit of moisture out of my skin, hair, and makes it extra difficult to hydrate before and after a run. Because of these reasons, I have to really push myself to hydrate more often throughout the day. I always prided myself on drinking a lot of water, but even with my good habits I still feel I need to push myself a little harder!

Here are a few of my tips on how to stay well hydrated. These tips don’t just apply to me… staying hydrated is beneficial in general to pretty much everyone! Hope you enjoy, and happy hydration!

  1. Carry a large water bottle — ditch the plastic minis! The bigger the bottle, the better for me. I like physically seeing that I am making progress on my water goals. It gives me a way to measure how well I’m doing throughout the day or if I need to step up my game. I prefer water bottles or flasks that are 24 oz or more!
  2. Switch it up! I have shared before how much I enjoy bubbly, flavored waters such as La Croix. When I open up a La Croix, I can down it within 15 minutes because the bubble and hint of flavor is so enjoyable and refreshing to me on a hot day. Drinks such as La Croix are also typically caffeine and sugar free. Caffeine tends to be dehydrating (it makes you pee a lot!), and because I’m such a coffee addict I try to stay away from all other caffeinated beverages as much as possible!
  3. Take advantage of summer fruit! Some fruit such as watermelon or honey dew actually have a fairly high water content. Snacking on these fruits can actually provide a source of hydration all on its own. Of course… you still need to drink fluid, but this is a great way to snack and hydrate at the same time without even thinking about it!
  4. Choose water during your commute. On average, my drive to work is anywhere from 30-40 minutes. During this time, I always grab a water bottle or a carbonated water to sip on the drive. I use to drink coffee on my commute but found that I usually wanted coffee anyways once I arrived at work. Swapping the car ride coffee for water was easy knowing I would have a cup as soon as I settled in at my destination. It is almost like a game… I have to finish this bottle or can before I pull into the parking garage!
  5. Utilize different flavors as needed. I use to flavor my water a lot more with fresh fruit such as strawberries or lemon. I occasionally would slice up a cucumber and add a few pieces to my water in the morning if I wanted a flavor that was less sweet or tangy. I don’t do this as often now, but it is definitely a way to please your palate and give yourself a little variety!

Easy Curry Chicken Salad

Happy Sunday everyone! I don’t know if it is the sudden heat wave or me coming off a busy month of April, but I have had zero motivation to get on here and write. I know I posted a few weeks ago that I would be sharing this recipe, and I’m sorry it has taken me so long! I am sleepy, lazy, and a total couch potato today!

I am currently sitting in my living room, sweating my butt off because my golden retriever LOVES laying on the hot turf and it is 100 degrees outside! Of course I’m that over-bearing dog mom that is panicking inside that he’s going to pass out in the heat… or worse, burn those cute little paws!! So, I’m sitting here with the door cracked open so I can hear him move around and occasionally hop in his mini pool. Barking means he is A-OK! I know some of you are laughing right now…. God bless my husband because I am going to be one high-strung mama bear when that time comes!

Is anyone else getting excessive heat already? Today is BRUTAL! I am so not ready for the 100s yet, but I guess mother nature has a different plan this year. For those of you who haven’t been to Arizona, I suggest you don’t plan a trip out any time soon!

This Easy Curry Chicken Salad was a nice change for lunch last week and lasted quite a long time in the refrigerator! I had one last little serving yesterday before we left for some Cinco de Mayo fun in the afternoon. It is super easy, and the flavors only get better as the week goes on! Plain Siggi’s yogurt gives the chicken salad a tangy flavor and provides an additional protein source that help keep you full long after your meal. I chose to add cashews to this recipe because it is one of my favorite nuts to snack on and has a creamy texture that complimented the other ingredients well. Feel free to try other nuts such as pistachios or slivered almonds in replacement of the cashews! I hope you enjoy this simple and easy summer recipe!

Easy Curry Chicken Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashewes
  • 1, 5.3oz container of plain Siggi’s yogurt (can sub other plain Greek yogurt brands)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp honey
  • handful fresh cilantro
  • pinch salt
  • curry powder
  • black pepper
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Bake chicken breasts for 25-30 minutes with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to cool before dicing into bite size pieces. Put aside in refrigerator to continue cooling.

In a large bowl, combined diced red bell pepper, cashews, and golden raisins. Once chicken has cooled for another 10-15 minutes in the refrigerator, add it to the pepper, cashew, and raisin mix. Add 1 container of plain Siggi’s yogurt (or comparable product), 1 1/2 Tbsp of honey, and seasonings. Season to taste (add as little or as much curry powder as desired).

Once well combined, fold in a handful of fresh cilantro. Cover with plastic wrap or transfer mixture into a large container with a lid. Put back into the refrigerator to cool for at least 1-2 hours before serving. The longer the mixture sits, the more the flavors will meld together. Serve in an airy pita or on top of crisp salad greens. Keeps for up to 1 week in the refrigerator!


Double Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread

OK guys.. this recipe is seriously A-M-A-Z-ING. I was holding my breath as I cut into the first piece thinking, “this is going to either be really good or really terrible.” I have a bad history poor results when baking with cocoa powder, especially when I am coming up with a recipe from scratch.

I was so pleasantly surprised at how rich, moist, and chocolatey this bread came out! It is super light and airy with an a little bit of banana undertone in each bite. Having trouble getting your kids (or in my case…. my husband) to eat vegetables? This is definitely a recipe to try! A little hidden zucchini never hurt anyone!

I had a few taste testers before I decided if this was post-worthy or not, and I got nothing but positive feedback! Most of the ingredients you should have around in your cabinet. I haven’t tried making it with any substitutions (for example brown sugar instead of coconut sugar), so I’m not going to promise that the taste or texture will be equivalent if you choose to switch things up. If you like chocolatey… be ready for a pleasantly easy surprise! Let me know what you think!

Double Chocolate Zucchini Banana Bread

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized brown bananas (the gooier the better!)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup pressed, shredded zucchini
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips + some extra for the top

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Shred your zucchini (I used a regular grater, but you can use a food processor or whatever tool you have at home). Press in-between a few paper towels to get rid of some of the extra water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mash 2 bananas until fairly smooth. Add 1 egg, coconut sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and oil. Mix until sugar is well incorporated and cocoa powder is dissolved. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and zucchini. Mix together until zucchini is evenly distributed in the batter. Lastly add chocolate chips.

Grease a loaf pan with oil or spray of choice. Evenly distribute the batter and put a few extra chocolate chips on top. Bake for about 30 minutes. Put a toothpick in the center at about 25 minutes to see if it is done (you don’t want to over cook!). Likely, the full 30 minutes will be needed!

Let the bread sit and cool for at least 10-15 minutes before cutting to serve. Cover with tip foil or plastic wrap to keep for up to 5 days. Enjoy!


Cocoa Banana Protein Balls

Happy Monday everyone!!! What a weekend we just had. We had a BUNCH (and I mean a bunch!) of family members come in to town for a surprise party for my father-in-law! Our weekend was filled with so much fun, food, sun, and of course a ton of new memories that I’m so thrilled we got to make! I was so excited to see cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course have a few of them stay in our new home.

To help with preparation and getting the house ready the week before, I made these yummy little balls for on-the-go snacking and to help keep my energy high each afternoon. I love small, easy snacks that I can pop in my mouth after work to help give me a little energy boost before exercising or working on things around the house. These were so easy and delicious, I definitely can’t wait to make them again!

A fun thing about this recipe is it is vegan and gluten free, so if you follow a special diet or have any type of dietary restriction, this may be a good recipe for you to try! You can also add different ingredients to tailor the flavor to your liking. Different additions, such as coconut flakes, can change up an otherwise simple and easy ingredient list.

I hope your week goes by fast and these little tasty bites give you a little extra energy to tackle your to-do list!! Have a great week y’all!

Cocoa Banana Protein Balls

  • Servings: 12-15 balls
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • 2/3 cup raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1 large Tbsp unsalted PB
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vegan vanilla protein powder
  • pinch salt
  • pinch cinnamon

Directions

In a food processor, grind cashews, almonds, cocoa powder, peanut butter, banana, cinnamon, salt, and protein powder. Stop to scape the sides once or twice. The ingredients may start to form a paste-like consistency. If a large “doughy” ball starts to form, that is ok. Continue to pulse or grind until you get a consistency you like (I tend to go for a fairy smooth texture with a few chunks here or there).

Use your hands and a small spoon to form small, gum-ball size balls. Put on a plate and cover with foil or in an air-tight container. Let refrigerate and harden for at least 15-20 minutes before trying! Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week (can freeze for longer use). Enjoy!