Viewing entries tagged

4 Healthy Christmas Desserts That You Can Make ASAP - Get Healthy With Valentina

4 Healthy Christmas Desserts That You Can Make ASAP - Get Healthy With Valentina

Apart from the pressures of choosing the right presents or catching up with friends and family, the holidays can also be a time of disappointment, financial strain, feuds, travel problems and being alone or far away from loved ones. Instead of enduring another stressful festive season, I'm sharing these amazing and healthy Christmas desserts to put the 'merry' back into your holiday festivities.

The Perfect Holiday Gifts for Your Mountain Biker Friend

The Perfect Holiday Gifts for Your Mountain Biker Friend

Finding your friends or family the perfect holiday gift can be a thrill. We live in an age where every type of product is at our fingertips, one click of an ‘Order’ button away. With browsing inventory and ordering specific items made easier than ever with the internet, holiday shopping mostly comes down to one thing: knowing what to get.

If you have a friend who you know to be a mountain biking fan, then your holiday gift shopping is even easier than you think. 

10 Healthy Gifts For Your Healthiest Friends

10 Healthy Gifts For Your Healthiest Friends

We all have that one friend who is a health buff. The one who orders a green tea when everybody else is drinking coffee with cream and the person who will order a fruit salad while you are indulging in chocolate cake. When the jolly season of holiday gift giving arrives, the lamp in your head never seems to turn on fast when it comes to your healthiest friend. Common gifts, such as a bottle of wine, a box of chocolate or an electric barbecue are out of the question. As holidays approach and nothing good enough crosses your mind, you must be feeling as pressured as the ingredients for your friend’s favourite cold-pressed soup. Not to worry. We've got you covered with a cheat sheet filled with healthy gifts.

5 Simple Ways to Avoid Sugary Sweets This Holiday Season

5 Simple Ways to Avoid Sugary Sweets This Holiday Season

Whether it’s Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pie or Christmas cookies, the holiday season is sure to bring one thing: temptation. And, while you may have indulged on everything in sight in years past, this year will be different. There are countless reasons to do so, too; aside from the fact that over-eating can cause notorious seasonal weight gain, sugar has been proven to be an addictive part of a person’s diet. In fact, some research shows that it has the same addictive effect on the brain as drugs do. Avoid the sugar highs and lows this holiday season with the following 5 tips, designed to help you steer clear and feel great every single day of November and December this year.

Want to change up your holiday dinner? Here's how others around the world do it

By Nataliya Schafer  

Christmas and dieting are two words that are anything but synonymous. Aside from roasting chestnuts on an open fire and eating popcorn in between stringing it, the holidays are pretty gut-busting.

Every family has their traditional Christmas dishes. Some are included because they’re delicious, and some of them are there just because they’ve always been even though practically no one likes it.

If you’re thinking of mixing up your Christmas dinner this year or are trying to subtly hint at your parents that you don’t want the ol’ turkey and mashed potatoes again, get some inspiration from other countries’ Christmas dinners.

We can’t promise these dishes will all fall in line with your diet, or that you will like all of them –who doesn’t love whale skin with blubber?– but if Christmas dinner has lost its magic for you, we guarantee these will help get you pumped about it again!


In Southern Italy it is common to serve fish on Christmas Eve, which is known as the Feast of Seven Fishes, and to fast during the daytime. Every village has its own customs as to when Christmas dinner is served, but Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals are both a tradition.

Christmas Day meals usually feature roasted meat; pasta; antipasti; sparkling wine; and panettone, a sweet citrusy-flavoured bread with raisins, and is sometimes served with a sweet cream made of marscapone and dried fruit known as zabaglione.

Panettone recipe here


Photo from


Most Peruvians are Roman Catholic, meaning Christmas is a big celebration. And everyone does their part to give back. Townspeople make panettone and spiced hot chocolate and give them to the less fortunate, and later enjoy a midnight feast of their own on Christmas Eve.

Turkey, fruit, and applesauce are common dishes as well as tamales. Of course, hot sauce is a staple at the dinner table. Adults drink champagne and children drink spiced hot chocolate.

Flan and marzipan are common (although not diet-friendly) desserts. You have been warned!

Spanish Flan recipe here


Photo from


Christmas is not a widely celebrated holiday in Japan, but the Japanese still have one favourite Christmas tradition: going to KFC.

On Christmas Day there are lines out the door and backed up orders at almost any KFC in any major city. People even call in advance to make sit-down reservations.

This tradition began in 1974 when KFC ran a “Christmas Chicken” campaign, because turkey is much harder to acquire in Japan. Ever since then, hungry Japanese have been able to get a Christmas chicken dinner, which includes wine, chicken, cake, and champagne, for only $40!


Photo from


The Polish typically fast all day and have a feast on Christmas Eve. The meal is usually meatless except for a few fish dishes like pike, fish au gratin, and herring in sour cream. Hard-cooked eggs, boiled potatoes, fruit compote, and Polish borscht are staples at most dinner tables.

Polish Borscht recipe here


Photo from


You likely won’t want to try it, but “Mattak,” whale skin with blubber, is a common Christmas delicacy in Greenland. Mattak supposedly tastes like coconut but is too tough to chew so it is usually just swallowed whole

 “Kiviak,” the raw flesh of birds that have been buried and marinated in seal flesh for months until they decompose, is also an unusual Christmas dinner dish. 

“Suaasat,” a soup/stew made from whale, seal, or reindeer with potatoes and onion, is one of Greenland’s less unusual dishes. Should you happen upon any reindeer or elk meat this holiday season, suaasat is actually a fairly healthy dish with an average of 45 grams of protein and only 7 grams of fat per serving.

In many North American households, women take charge of Christmas dinner, but on Christmas night the men pamper the women, serving them coffee and food and stirring dinner for them!

Suaasat recipe here


Photo from

Nataliya works in Toronto and is obsessed with her dog, as you can see on her Instagram @nataliya.schafer. She is discovering the world of weightlifting after years of boring elliptical-only workouts. She loves to horseback ride and laughs at people who say it isn’t a workout because “the horse does everything.” She loves a good deal–even if it’s on something she doesn’t need.

Healthy Christmas Desserts


This post is part of a series of monthly posts by Valentina M. Follow her on Instagram @thehealthymexican9 and on PumpUp @thehealthymexican.

Cold weather makes me mad  (well, not really mad) but suffice it to say, I am not a fan of cold weather. Nevertheless, I am keenly aware of how happy this time of year makes me.  I am a Christmas maniac. Seriously, I am. I love Christmas. I am 23 years old, I do not have any children, I hate the cold, and yet, I am downright excited for this time of year. I am one of those people who constantly annoy others by reminding them how many days are left until Christmas. I believe it is the little things and the traditions about this season that keep me excited. 

People sometimes think that my winter wardrobe only consists of red and green. What’s more, I am unable to control my emotions every time I see my Christmas tree lit up for the first time.  I believe that, while I unpack mistletoe and tangled Christmas lights, I also unpack the feelings of years gone by. There also isn’t anything more heart-breaking that the day after Christmas.

I will not make a list about the things I love about Christmas because there are too many things, but one of my favourite parts of the year are the food and drinks we enjoy.  I search for healthy alternatives this year to continue  my journey toward a healthier life and chose the ones I liked the most. Enjoy these 4 healthy Christmas treats!

'Raw' Christmas Snowball Bites



  • 1/2 cup raw pecans

  • 1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews

  • 1/2 cup coconut (dried, shredded, and unsweetened)

  • 2 tablespoons raw honey

  • (For rolling) 1/4 cup coconut (dried, shredded, and unsweetened)

Directions: Process the pecans in a food processor to break up into little pieces. Empty these little pieces into a small mixing bowl to mix in later. Process the macadamia nuts, cashews, and coconut in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal. Add in the honey and process until the mixture starts to form a sticky ball of dough. Transfer this mixture to the small mixing bowl with the chopped pecans. Incorporate the pecans in the dough mixture. Scoop rounded spoonfuls (either with a cookie scoop or with a spoon and then roll into balls in your hands) and roll each ball in the coconut. Quickly chill them for more immediate consumption in the freezer, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator to chill until ready to serve. Serve and enjoy!

Healthy Eggnog



  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup Honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Blend all ingredients together for a few minutes. Pour mixture into a pot (don’t let it boil). Simmer for about 15 min. Then chill mixture in fridge overnight. Serve and enjoy!

Almond Protein Cookies



  • 1/4 cup of vanilla or unflavored whey
  • 2 tbsps (15g each) cashew nut butter or almond butter
  • 1 tbsp Sweet Freedom, agave, or honey
  • 1/8 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup of ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp orange extract (optional)


Get a bowl out and chuck all the above ingredients in there. (Feel free to also add any walnuts, chocolate chips, or if you want your cookies to be even higher in protein, add a couple of tbsps of protein crispies.)  Mix everything together until you get a soft cookie dough you can roll into balls with your hands.  Place on a cookie tray and flatten each ball using your fingers, a fork, or a cookie stamp like I did. Bake at 170 C (320 F) for 6-10 minutes or until they’re cooked through but not rock hard.

Grinch Treats



  • Strawberry
  • Grape
  • Banana slice
  • Lemon juice
  • Toothpicks


Slice the banana and add a little bit of lemon juice to the slices to coat them and keep them from turning brown. Cut the top off the strawberry. On the toothpick, stack a green grape, a banana slice, and a strawberry (put it top side down on the banana slice).Push another toothpick down through the tip of the strawberry through the banana slice and into the grape leaving ¼” of the toothpick at the top. Add a mini slice of banana on the top (I saw this recipe with a small marshmallow on the top but I am not a fan of marshmallow so I put a mini banana silces on the top) boil.  Serve and Enjoy!

With Love,



This is the ultimate health and fitness gift guide


By Nataliya Schafer  

Giving health and fitness-related gifts is tricky. Unless they have specifically asked for it, it’s probably not a great idea to give your friend a scale with a pretty red bow on it.

You want to give people a gift they will use, but don’t want to make them feel like you think they are out of shape–unless want them to friend-dump you, in which case a scale is a great gift!

The holidays are a notoriously unhealthy time. We gorge ourselves on delicious desserts that we only get once a year and spend lots of time indoors avoiding Old Man Winter.

Gifts that encourage healthy living will be useful not only through the holidays, but long after as well. But, gifts are not a one-size-fits-all deal, especially when it comes to health and fitness-related gifts. What may be a dream gift for one person may go totally unused by another.

So, to prevent giving a gift that will sit in the basement collecting dust, this guide will help you pinpoint what kind of person you’re giving to and get an idea of what gifts they could really benefit from. Take it with a grain of salt! You may know a Newbie who could totally benefit from a gift I’ve listed as good for a Pro. You know your friends and family best! 


The Pro

This person is no stranger to the gym and has all the trendy fitness gadgets (the Fitbit, FiveFinger shoes, a juicer, etc). This person knows what they’re doing at the gym, and doesn’t need something that will get them excited about working out. The best gift to give them is a practical gift that they can use as a part of their regular routine.

The Newbie

The newbie is, as the title suggests, fairly new to the game. They haven’t quite figured out what their “thing” is, but they’re committed to living healthier. They’ve already got some nice gym clothes, but that’s about it.

The Procrastinator
This person has been saying for quite a while that they want/need to live healthier, but needs a bit of a gentle push in the right direction. This definitely isn’t a person you’d buy a scale for, so a gift that is less personal but still encourages better living in everyday life is the way to go.

The Traveler

The traveler is always on the go, whether they’re traveling for work or pleasure. All that stress and time spent sitting in a car or on an airplane can really add up, so they need compact and useful items they can bring with them that will help them keep their body in tip top shape.



Aladdin Twist and Sip Water Bottle - $20 

Suitable for: ALL

Everyone drinks water, and unless you’ve been living under a rock you should know how bad buying plastic water bottles over and over again is. Plus, no one wants to be that person on the treadmill with the crinkly water bottle that the whole gym can hear.

This water bottle keeps smoothies cold and coffee hot for at least eight hours. Some people have said it keeps water cold for over 24 hours. It is made of vacuum insulated stainless steel and can is easy to clean.


Nuun Hydration Tablets $24-$30

Suitable for: ALL

Nuun tablets essentially work the same way Gatorade does by replenishing nutrients and restoring electrolytes, but without all the added sugar and in a more convenient and cost-effective way.

There are also different tablets for different activity levels. If you’re a marathon runner, Nuun Active Hydration tablets are best for you. If you just want to make sure you are drinking enough water, Nuun All Day Hydration tablets make all that water a little tastier. 

Just add an eight-calorie tablet to your water, leave the lid off while it dissolves, and then go!

Philosophie Protein Powder $10-$55

Especially Suitable for: The Pro, The Traveler, The Newbie

Philosophie’s Green Dream, Cacao Magic, and Berry Bliss protein powders are all plant-based and contain superfoods like chia seeds, hemp powder, cacao nibs, acai, and goji. They are all organic, gluten-free, and raw and keep you full, burn fat, and help combat heart disease, stress, depression and promote healthy blood, balanced blood sugar, and muscle recovery and rejuvenation. And, best of all, they actually taste great.

Not sure what flavor to get? Order a starter pack ($40) or a sampler pack ($20) to taste test all three flavours.


Oil Mister $16

Suitable for: ALL

Oil misters not only help save often-expensive oils, but also save you from extra calories. They’re perfect for greasing pans, seasoning salads, prepping cookie trays, and making sure whatever you’re cooking doesn’t stick to the pan without all the added chemicals in aerosol cooking sprays. 

Whether you’ve just vowed to start cooking more yesterday, or whether you’ve always cooked meals yourself, just about everyone can use and appreciate this nifty gadget.


Zensufu Acupressure Mat $25-$37

Especially Suitable for: The Pro, The Traveler

Okay–this is one of those gifts that someone might sort of make someone hate you the first time they try it. This acupressure mat essentially stabs you in the back like you’re lying on a bed of nails, but if you stick it out the benefits are pretty great. This torture mat can improve circulation, relieve stress, get rid of those annoying knots in hard-to-reach spots, improve posture, and can even seriously reduce or eliminate lifelong back pain. If you can look past the pain, it can be life-changing.

It is pretty travel friendly and rolls up nicely, but is something that a Procrastinator or Newbie may not appreciate unless you know they have chronic back/neck problems. I personally think this is best suited to the Traveler and the Pro, but use your discretion. Everyone has the right to use a torture mat if they want to!


The Grid Mini $25

Especially Suitable for: The Traveler

This travel-friendly foam roller gets your blood pumping again after long bouts of sitting and gets right into those tight knots and kinks, something that the Traveler will definitely be able to appreciate. Foam rollers increase circulation and flexibility, aid in recovery from injuries, and help decrease muscle and joint pain.

Everyone can benefit from a foam roller, but the Grid Mini is so easily portable that it is a Traveler’s godsend.


Trudeau Travel Tea Infuser Tumbler $17

Especially Suitable for: The Traveler

Not everyone likes tea, but if you know a Traveler who does they’d almost definitely appreciate a tumbler they can steep tea in without risking a spill. It keeps tea hot for up to two hours and screws on tight with a flip top so it won’t leak. 

Bonus points for making or buying your own loose leaf tea blends and gifting them with the tumbler!


Aumzer Vegetable Spiralizer $15

Suitable for: ALL

Pasta is delicious, but no so good for us. This nifty tool turns just about any vegetable into healthy gluten-free noodles so you can pig out on “pasta” until you feel like you will explode. When I bought mine I ate nothing but zucchini noodles with cauliflower alfredo sauce for a week; if you did that with fettuccini alfredo, the blood in your veins would probably be replaced by alfredo sauce. (Yum!)

It’s also handy when making sushi or any other dish that requires thinly sliced vegetables and makes prep time a fraction of that when using a knife.


Gift card to a fun fitness class and coupon for a lunch date 

Especially Suitable for: The Procrastinator

Buy a Groupon for an aerial yoga class or a pole fitness class for the two of you to go to–something that you know they wouldn’t regularly do that the both of you will have fun at. Don’t choose something that you need to have prior experience to excel at or something that you’re really good at that might make them feel like you’re showing off. No one wants to get a present that is just actually your friend wanting to show off in disguise. 

It’s important that you go with them to make the experience fun and less like a suggestion that they need to start going to fitness classes. Some of the best gifts are simply spending time together, so treat them to lunch after and share a laugh about how both of you are really bad at pole fitness. They’ll remember that gift years down the road – guaranteed.


PurAthletics Intro Yoga Kit $28

Especially Suitable for: The Procrastinator, The Newbie

The Newbie could become a devout yogi, but they just haven’t tried it yet. The Procrastinator may think that getting in shape is only possible by taking an intimidating CrossFit class. Show them that yoga is a great way to improve strength and flexibility and energize the body without a veiny personal trainer yelling at them.

Includes one yoga mat, one carrying bag, an instructional DVD, and mat carrying strap.


Motivational Jewelry ~$20

Especially Suitable for: The Pro 

Etsy is a great source for unique gifts at a reasonable price, and it has a ton of workout-related motivational jewelry that a Pro would most likely love. Who wouldn’t want a tiny dumbbell necklace? It’s adorable!

Whether their thing is running, weightlifting, or yoga, you can find a bracelet, necklace, or keychain charm that fits their niche.


Oster Travel Smoothie Blender $25

Especially Suitable for: The Procrastinator, The Newbie, The Traveler

Odds are, a Pro would already have some sort of super duper smoothie maker. A Vitamix may not be an affordable gift, but the Oster Travel Smoothie Blender definitely is.

Smoothies are an easy and delicious snack (or even breakfast) and this blender saves you the extra step of transferring it from the blender to the mug. Just about anyone can benefit from something that helps make eating well a little more convenient.

(Psst! For bonus points, gift The Smoothie Recipe Book $11 with it.)

Nataliya works in Toronto and is obsessed with her dog, as you can see on her Instagram @nataliya.schafer. She is discovering the world of weightlifting after years of boring elliptical-only workouts. She loves to horseback ride and laughs at people who say it isn’t a workout because “the horse does everything.” She loves a good deal–even if it’s on something she doesn’t need.