How to Become a Morning Person

Waking up early can be the key to greater productivity. If you work efficiently in the morning and get the most pressing tasks done before noon, it takes the pressure off you for the rest of the day. This leaves you free to spend the afternoon getting ahead on less urgent work, or taking time to pursue your hobbies. But, despite the benefits of an early start, pulling yourself out of your warm comfy, especially before the sun rises, can be challenging.

Before this year, I hovered between being a night-owl and an early-bird; I’d go to bed around 12 and wake up around 8. But I found with this routine I was too tired to do much work in the hour before I went to bed, and I woke up too late to enjoy the quiet hours before the rest of my house was awake. Part of working most efficiently is determining the time when you do your best work. For me, implementing an earlier bedtime and morning alarm allows me to capitalize on the times when my brain feels the freshest.

Now, if you’re a committed night-owl, the tips I have below probably won’t magically change the morning into your most productive time of day. And that’s okay – what’s important is finding the routine that works best for you. But if you find you’re having trouble working efficiently with your current schedule, try out some of the habits that I find helpful.

Jump out of bed, take 10 deep breaths

As soon as your alarm goes off, don’t give yourself a chance to debate hitting the snooze button and rolling over. Hop out of bed, turn on a light, and immediately take ten deep breaths. The oxygen will wake up your brain, and with the light on you’ll be less inclined to go back to sleep. I’ve found that the worst part of getting out of bed in the morning is the first 30 seconds after the alarm goes off when I feel SO TIRED. I’ve found that taking deep breaths is the best way to shrug off that initial feeling of exhaustion, and once that first 30 seconds has passed, I’m usually full of energy to start the day.

Get a housemate or friend on board

If I want to wake up earlier, making an agreement with one of my housemates that we’re both going to get up at a certain time helps hold me accountable. My bedroom is right beside the kitchen, so hearing my friend outside my door making her breakfast and starting a pot of coffee is good motivation to get out of bed. It’s always nice to know that you’re not the only one who is up early and getting a head start on school work. Even if you don’t live with housemates, you can still make a plan with a friend to get up early, and text your friend in the morning to let her know you’re following through on your commitment.

Plan an awesome breakfast

Another great way to get yourself out of bed at an early hour is to have a delicious breakfast prepped and waiting for you in the fridge, or to have a plan to make something yummy once you wake up. Then, you can enjoy your breakfast and a cup of hot coffee while you get started on your work. For breakfast options, I often look to some of my favourite bloggers for inspiration. Here are a few breakfast recipes that make me excited to get an early start:

Carrot Cake Overnight Protein Oats from Running on Real Food

Brownie Batter Overnight Protein Oats from Running on Real Food

Pumpkin Pecan Baked Oatmeal from Healthy Liv

One-Skillet Sweet Potatoes and Eggs from Healthy Liv

My other go-to breakfast option: any kind of omelette, or an egg and veggie scramble with fruit on the side.

Get to bed earlier

This is the tip that is so obvious yet so frequently overlooked. It’s going to be hard to pull yourself out of bed in the morning if you haven’t had enough sleep. If you find it difficult to get to bed on time, try setting an alarm on your phone 30 minutes before you plan to go to bed to give yourself some time to do your nighttime routine. If you’re worried about not completing enough work when you have an earlier bedtime, remember: you’re waking up earlier to be more productive, and it will be easier to work efficiently when you’re well-rested.

Give yourself a break

As university students, we often don’t appreciate the importance of sleep in the maintenance of overall health. There are times when I find myself thinking that it’s okay if I’m sleeping less to get school work done, as long as I’m still eating healthy and exercising. This is not sustainable in the long run, and will lead to burn-out. Additionally, it’s hard to have a joyful day if you’re too tired to do any of the activities that make you happy!  So if you stay up late getting an assignment done, don’t force yourself to wake up early. Give yourself permission to rest. When you’ve spent enough time sleeping, the hours during the day that you are awake will be more productive, and you won’t be as influenced by distractions.

Are you more of a night-owl or an early-bird? Do you have any tips for making it easier to get out of bed in the morning?

Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce

This hearty pasta sauce is packed full of veggies, and will keep you full well past dinner time, with turkey for protein and sweet potato for some extra carbs and nutrients. It’s a perfect addition to spiralized zucchini, and it’s gluten-free, dairy-free and paleo. 

 This sauce is one of my favourite recipes I’ve created so far. Not only is it an amazing way to add more veggies into my diet, but I can make it at the start of the week and usually get 4 or more meals from it. It’s fairly easy to throw together – just chop all the veggies first, then everything except the spices and tomatoes go in a pot to stir fry until the turkey has browned, and then you add the tomatoes and spices and simmer until the sweet potato is soft.

My favourite ways to enjoy this sauce:

  1. On top of spiralized zucchini (zucchini noodles or “zoodles” as I like to refer to them). I used to be a bit of a pasta addict. It was my go-to meal during second year, and although it was delicious, eating it in large quantities was not doing great things to my body. After I decided to stop eating gluten because it was contributing to a lot of inflammation, I replaced my usual spaghetti with zoodles and was surprised to find that I was equally satisfied! Maybe I’m just a sucker for something you have to twirl up before you eat. Zoodles are great because you can add a lot of bulk to your meal without a ton of extra calories. This sauce is perfect for zoodles because the sweet potato provides a source of carbs, which you don’t get as much of when using zoodles instead of pasta. I use the OXO Good Grip Hand Held Spiralizer to make my zoodles, which I’ve found works well for zucchini – I haven’t tried it using other veggies.

  2. On top of gluten-free pasta. This is a more traditional use for pasta sauce, and it is definitely delicious! Catelli makes excellent gluten-free noodles. Pictured below is my sauce on top of Catelli’s gluten-free fusilli.

One thing that’s great about this sauce is that it tastes delicious cold (at least I think so) so I can take it to campus for lunch, and don’t have to worry about finding a microwave to heat it up.

Monday Eats

Zoodles and this pasta sauce were the way I ended my day today, but my other two meals were also very delicious.

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with yellow pepper, onion, and homemade salsa; roasted potatoes; tomato slices.

I made some salsa at the start of the week in my food processor from a recipe I found online, and although it was edible, it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.  So next week I’m going to experiment more to try and develop my own salsa recipe! I like making my own salsa because salsas from stores often contain a lot of salt. My skin is really sensitive to the amount of salt I put in my body, so I like to reduce sodium whenever possible.

Lunch

Salad with roasted chicken, chopped Granny Smith apple, cucumber, celery, and lettuce. Topped with apple cider vinegar for dressing.

Before I left campus after my last class, I went to the gym and did a full-body circuit workout. I’ve been experimenting with Tabata-style workouts lately; today’s workout consisted of three circuits made up of 4 exercises in each circuit. Each circuit had a specific focus (lower body, upper body, abs), and combined a variety of bodyweight, cardio, and free weight moves. I’ll be posting some of my favourite circuit workouts soon!

I definitely had a large helping of sauce on top of my zoodles to refuel after my challenging workout!

Print Recipe
Turkey and Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat.
  2. Add celery, carrot, sweet potato, and ground turkey. Stir with a spatula to combine the vegetables and break up the turkey. Continue stir-frying until the turkey has browned (about 15 minutes).
  3. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and basil. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and turn the heat down to low. Continue to simmer the sauce until the sweet potato has softened (approximately 30-45 minutes).

Six Ways to Stay Active in University

In my first year of university, I tried to commit to going to the gym a few times a week, but because of the challenges of adjusting to life away from home and the school workload, I didn’t stay as active as I should have. A couple things changed during second year; even though I was even busier with school work, I started using some strategies to ensure I fit several workouts into my schedule each week. Additionally, I made an effort to move my body in some way every day.

Moving Every Day

For most people, it’s not going to be feasible to make it to the gym every single day. However, I find that consistency is key in promoting physical activity habits. In first year, it was common for me to go to the gym for two weeks straight and love it, but then I’d get thrown off by a couple midterms, miss a few days of working out, and have trouble motivating myself to get back in the habit. Now, rather than getting into a “streak” of going to the gym every day, my goal each day is to simply do something that is physically active. I don’t always choose something extremely strenuous, but it does have to be something intentional. For example, I’ll count going for a walk as something active, but I don’t consider the goal completed if I just walk to and from class. The reason I love having a “move every day” objective is that I can still feel I’ve accomplished my goal even if I have a day where my body is tired, or I’m not in the mood to do a traditional gym workout. On days when I don’t go to the gym, I’ll often go running or walking outside, do some yoga in my living room, go for a hike, or do a quick ab circuit at home.

The following are the tips I’ve found most effective for making fitness a priority and staying active every day.

Block out time in your schedule to work out.

Treat working out, whether it is at the gym or elsewhere, as an appointment. At the beginning of the semester, I print off my timetable week by week, and then use a highlighter to plan out times for meetings, study sessions, and other commitments (I know a lot of people like online calendars, but I find a hard copy more satisfying). On Sunday, when I look ahead at my plans for the week, I put a whole week’s worth of workout sessions into my schedule in advance. If you don’t maintain your health, are the other things that you do each day really that important long term? I keep always keep that in mind when I’m considering my priorities for the week.

Sign up for an intramural team

Most campuses have an intramural program that offers a wide variety of sports. If you played a sport in high school, or if you’re looking to try something new, I highly recommend signing up. Intramurals are a great way to socialize and de-stress, in addition to getting you moving. I’ve played basketball for my whole life, so when I wasn’t playing basketball at the very start of university, I felt like something was missing. Luckily, I started playing on a team with some people in my program in second semester of first year, and I’ve been on the same team every semester since. I’ve become really good friends with many of the people on my team, and in addition to playing our intramural games, we play pick-up basketball one night a week (which puts some extra physical activity into my schedule!).

Go to the gym right after your last class

If you have a membership at the gym on your campus, hit the gym as soon as your last class of the day is over. This saves time trekking to and from the gym earlier or later in the day (particularly if you live off campus). If I pack my clothes and running shoes with me when I leave for the day, I’m less likely to skip my workout, especially since I’m already so close to the gym.

Sign up for a race

If you’re into running, look online for a race that’s taking place in the city you go to school in. Having a race to look forward to can be great motivation to train hard. Participating in a race also allows you to become engaged with the city you go to school in. Want even more motivation? Sign up and train for the race with a friend! Running with a buddy is a great way to build a strong friendship.

Try a new fitness class at your gym

Many gyms offer fitness classes included in their membership price. In addition to simply blocking workout time into your schedule, trying out a class is a more definitive way to make an “appointment” at the gym. Some of the classes I’ve tried at my gym include spin classes, yoga, boot camp, and a number of circuit classes. In addition to being a fun experience, these classes also have given me ideas for activities I can incorporate into future workouts!

Try fitness classes in the community

Many fitness studios offer promotions for students, or have a free first class opportunity – capitalize on this! In the summer, I took a free kickboxing class at a gym with some girls from my work and ended up getting a membership because I loved it so much. In September, a local hot yoga studio had a free week of classes available for university students, so I signed up for that and attended 5 classes during the week. The best thing to do is find an activity you’re interested in and research studios in your city. Then you can call them or check their website to see whether they offer any special promotions. Next on my list: I’d love to take a barre class, so I plan to do some research to see if I can find a studio that offers the first class for free.

A short workout is better than no workout

Less strenuous activities like going for a walk are a great way to stay active if you don’t feel like going to the gym for a hard workout. But if you’re short on time, there’s also the opportunity to fit in a short but intense workout to get the benefits of working out, without taking too much time out of your study schedule. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to have a challenging workout in a short amount of time, and it’s a form of training I use frequently. There has been a lot of research in the past few years about the multitude of benefits HIIT provides – check out these articles for more info: source, source. I’ll be posting some of the HIIT workouts I do on the blog in the future, so keep an eye out!

Do you have any tips for fitting fitness into your life? What’s the best fitness class you’ve ever tried?

 

No-Bake Carrot Cake Bars

These Carrot Cake bars are sweet, filling, and have  a delicious texture. They’re also vegan, free of refined sugar, and can be made gluten-free by using certified gluten-free oats. They’re perfect as a healthier dessert option or an energizing pre-workout snack.There’s nothing like a slice of sweet, moist carrot cake, loaded with add-ins like raisins, walnuts and coconut, and topped with cream cheese icing. But if you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet, traditional carrot cake can’t make it onto your menu all the time. Luckily, these No-Bake Carrot Cake Bars can satisfy your carrot cake craving, without loading your body with less-healthy ingredients. Unfortunately cream cheese icing isn’t part of this treat, since I usually eat these bars as a pre- or post-workout snack rather than a dessert, but I’m sure they would taste excellent with a little icing spread on top if you’re serving them for dessert.

Ingredient Benefits

Another reason these bars are great is that they let you get a few extra veggies into your diet. Now, I’m not talking about huge servings of vegetables here, but every little bit counts! Carrots provide you with vitamin A, which has immune benefits, and promotes skin and eye health.

Besides the carrots, these bars contain some other super food ingredients as well:

Dates have a multitude of nutritional benefits, and you can generally buy them in bulk for a fairly low price. They’re useful for many “no-bake” recipes because they provide the stickiness necessary to create a dough, and they add sweetness. Dates are high in fibre, so they help promote digestive health. They also contain magnesium, which studies have found helps reduce inflammation (source). Magnesium also promotes heart health and can help you feel more energetic (more energy is definitely something I need as a university student).

Walnuts are another nutrient powerhouse – they contain protein and healthy fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. The benefits of omega-3s are extensive – check out this webpage by the University of Maryland for more information about the benefits of omega-3s! Walnuts also contain vitamin E, which promotes skin health.

One thing I love about these bars, and homemade energy bars in general, is that they’re easy to take on the go. A lot of energy bars and protein bars on the market (particularly those that are available to purchase on my campus) are high in sugar and have an extensive ingredient list. Making my own bars is easy, and I know every ingredient I’m putting into my body, so I often opt to make them at home. Plus, bring these to the gym, and your workout buddies will be very jealous of your delicious post-workout snack! Not that I cook because I want people to think my food looks awesome. Of course not. Never.

One other note – I know many university students living in a student house may not have a food processor in their kitchen. So, if your parents have one at their house, capitalize on the opportunity and make these delicious treats while you’re at home. Alternatively, you may be able to find a food processor on a website like Kijiji for a less expensive price than buying one in-store. They’re a very versatile tool, and I use mine weekly to make snacks/treats like this one, sauces, and puréed soups.

Print Recipe
No-Bake Carrot Cake Bars
Course Dessert, Snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Course Dessert, Snack
Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Add oats and walnuts to food processor and pulse a few times to break down slightly.
  2. Add coconut, dates, shredded carrot, vanilla, salt, and spices. Turn processor on to high and blend until a dough forms.
  3. Scoop dough from food processor into a bowl and fold in the raisins until they are dispersed evenly.
  4. Press dough into an 8”x 8” pan, ensuring even thickness throughout pan.
  5. Put in freezer for two hours or overnight. Then, cut into 12 bars. Bars can be enjoyed straight from the freezer, or they can be placed in the fridge if you like them a little softer.


How to Poach an Egg

Growing up, poached eggs were (and still are), my dad’s specialty. He’d put them on everything, from traditional toast or English muffin, to pancakes and oatmeal (eeek!) Although I never took him up on his offers to make the latter two options, I have gotten a little more creative with my uses for poached eggs – I’ll often put them on top of roasted veggies (typically sweet potato or cauliflower), or I’ll top my salad off with an egg for some extra protein.

Being able to poach an egg is a good skill to have as a university student – eggs cooked this way are versatile, quick to make, and delicious! Poaching your eggs is also a healthy way to consume eggs, as poaching does not require the addition of fats or oils. Recipes featuring poached eggs will definitely appear on my blog in the future, so I figured it was best to start off with a little lesson on how to successfully prepare your eggs this way. Below I have included a recipe for a salad I eat frequently for lunch. This salad allows me to get some green veggies into my diet, while the sweet potato provides a source of carbohydrates, healthy fat comes from the avocado, and a poached egg on top provides protein. The recipe below includes step-by-step poaching instructions. I have also included instructions to make a simple dressing with balsamic vinegar; however, I often just have this salad dressed with apple cider vinegar.

One thing to note: some instructions for poached eggs suggest adding a splash of vinegar to the water you cook the eggs in, the reason being that the vinegar causes the egg whites to firm up faster, preventing them from spreading around in the water. Because I didn’t have any vinegar in my house when I first started poaching eggs, I’ve just been using boiling water, and my eggs generally turn out very well.

Print Recipe
Sweet Potato and Green Salad w/Poached Egg
This is the perfect salad to have as a balanced lunch, allowing you to get some extra servings of veggies into your diet!
Course Lunch
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Salad
Dressing
Course Lunch
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
person
Ingredients
Salad
Dressing
Instructions
  1. Peel a sweet potato and chop into small cubes. Toss in cooking oil and sprinkle with salt (or garlic salt if you have it). Using a toaster oven or conventional oven, bake sweet potato at 400ºF for 25 minutes.
  2. While sweet potato is cooking, tear lettuce and place in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Dice cucumber and slice celery stalks. Add on top of the lettuce.
  4. Carve avocado into small pieces and add to the top of the salad.
  5. Mix dressing: add ingredients for dressing to a small bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork.
  6. When the sweet potato is cooked, remove from oven and add to top of salad. I usually flatten out the layer of sweet potato to create a bed to set the poached egg on. Add dressing to salad, and then cook egg using the method described below.
How to Poach an Egg
  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, then reduce to medium-low, so the water is simmering.
  2. Crack an egg into a small bowl, being careful to keep the yolk intact (if the yolk breaks you can save it in the fridge and use it in an omelette or scrambled egg another day).
  3. When your water is simmering, use a spoon and stir the water quickly to create a “whirlpool” in the centre of the pot.
  4. Then, putting the bowl close to the water, pour the egg into the centre of the whirlpool. The egg will spin a bit before settling on the bottom of the pot.
  5. Set a timer for 3.5 minutes if you want your yolk to be runny, and increase the time if you want a firmer yolk.
  6. After 3.5 minutes have elapsed, use a slotted spoon to remove the poached egg from the pot and place the egg on the salad, on top of the sweet potato.

Almond Butter and “Jelly” Oatmeal

This quick breakfast requires only a few ingredients and is perfect for busy school mornings. Your basic oatmeal is supplemented with almond butter, which adds protein and healthy fats to keep you full until lunch. The addition of mixed berries makes breakfast time a little sweeter!I have a mild peanut allergy, so I never got to experience the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But this peanut-free oatmeal version of the classic childhood sandwich is so satisfying that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. Instead of jelly, which adds a lot of refined sugar to your meal, frozen mixed berries and honey provide some sweetness.

Almond butter and mixed berries pack a micronutrient punch:

  • Almond butter – contains calcium, iron, vitamin E, magnesium, and copper (source). It is also high in fibre, which aids in digestion and lowers cholesterol. But consume in moderation – it is very calorically dense.
  • Berries – berries contain a number of antioxidants, and micronutrients that help to reduce inflammation. They also have a positive impact on cardiovascular health (source) and have been found to have cancer-preventing properties (source).

Today I enjoyed this delicious bowl of oatmeal before I headed to class. See the bottom of the post for the recipe for Almond Butter and “Jelly” Oatmeal.

For lunch I had this delicious salad (recipe to follow in the next post):For snack I enjoyed some celery and chipotle hummus. I always find I need a snack around 3pm to get me through until dinner, so I try to wash and cut vegetables beforehand. That way, when I feel like nibbling on something, I have convenient access to something healthy.I finished off my day with a chicken taco bowl. This is another recipe I will post in the future, once I’ve perfected it! “Bowls” of any variety are one of my favourite meals – it’s so easy to mix them up with different combinations of ingredients and dressings. These recipes will definitely be appearing on the blog as I create them.I had class and meetings until 9:30 today, and I didn’t have time in the morning, so I stopped by the gym briefly in the afternoon (and was a little sweaty for my last meeting of the day). I spent 20 minutes on the Stairmaster, followed a quick circuit that had a focus on upper body and core, in order to exercise my whole body. Then, after a couple hours of school work, I went back to the gym for my intramural basketball game!

Here is the recipe for Almond Butter and “Jelly” oatmeal, which provided a hearty start to my busy day.

 

Print Recipe
Almond Butter and "Jelly" Oatmeal
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Servings
serving
Ingredients
Optional:
Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 2 minutes
Servings
serving
Ingredients
Optional:
Instructions
  1. Place oats in a small bowl and add boiling water (enough to submerge the oats). Stir and wait for oats to absorb water, adding more boiling water to achieve the desired consistency.
  2. In another small bowl, microwave the frozen berries until just defrosted (30 seconds - 1 minute depending on the power of your microwave).
  3. Add honey to berries, and stir to coat.
  4. Spoon the berries and honey mixture on top of oatmeal.
  5. Drizzle almond butter over top of oatmeal.
  6. Optional: Add a pinch of salt on top of the almond butter (I like to do this to achieve a mild sweet-and-salty flavour). If you want a little extra sweetness, you can always add a bit more honey on top of the oatmeal.

Why I Started a Blog

When I moved off campus at the beginning of my second year of university, I decided that I was going to take up cooking as a hobby. I had to cook for myself anyway, so why not get some joy out of it? I started with a simple Google search of the best recipe blogs, and focused on the ones that provided easy, healthy recipes. I bookmarked my favourite blogs on my computer, and that was how my love of cooking began – by experimenting with the recipes posted by a number of talented bloggers and food photographers. I would (and still do!) browse the blogs every morning while I eat my breakfast, seeking for inspiration for my next cooking adventure. After I became more comfortable in the kitchen, I began to try my hand at creating my own recipes – mostly gluten-free, dairy-free, and healthy enough to provide the nourishment to get me through long days of studying and living an active lifestyle.

In addition to my love of cooking, I’ve always been passionate about sports and fitness; I’ve played basketball since I was 8, I love to run, and I really enjoy creating circuit workouts to complete at the gym. Staying physically active not only keeps my body healthy, it refreshes my mind and brings balance to my life as a student.

I created Nibble to Nourish to bring together three of my interests – writing, food, and fitness – and to share these interests with others. I will post recipes that are packed full of nutrients, workout routines that will leave you sweaty and exhausted, and tips about staying healthy in university.

Here are the kinds of posts you can expect in addition to recipes and workouts:

  • Things I eat in a day
  • Workout challenges (such as an ab workout challenge for a month)
  • Diet experiments (such as cutting out refined sugar for a period of time)
  • Cookbook reviews
  • Advice and general musings about life in university

Thanks for stopping by my blog! If you’re interested in following along with my adventures in healthy eating and fitness, you can subscribe in the sidebar to be notified about new posts.