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About: Alexandra Merisoiu

Recent Posts by Alexandra Merisoiu

Tips on how to stay motivated

Being an athlete and stay motivated is not always easy. If it was, then Olympic athletes would not have coaches any more, they already know everything and are very disciplined. But they have coaches and for good reasons.

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Train your muscles in a multilateral way with push-ups

Training in a multilateral way can and will make your body work move efficient in your sport. As Martial Arts practitioners we have to expect the unexpected, we need to be able to turn, twist, bend, throw, catch, hold, land, jump, or a combination of them.

To do all this our muscles needs to be trained in a multilateral way. Our muscles are not straight strips, but rather they go diagonally, like the ones on our abdomen.

In a very basic way of explaining, we have a straight sheet of muscles in the middle of the abdomen, but all the other go diagonally from under the arm to the hips.

All muscles in our bodies are like that. It’s a very complex structure.

Keeping this in mind, here are 53 variations of push-ups you can easily do in your house, next to your bed if you want. You can apply the same principles for squats.

Remember that you will find positions where the range of movement may be limited, so don’t force it, range of movement and mobility comes with practice.

These are the basics.

Neutral stance hands or feet shoulder width apart

Neutral stance hands or feet shoulder width apart

Moving hands and feet left and right, ending in a narrow or wide position

Moving hands and feet left and right, ending in a narrow or wide position

From neutral position cach hand or foot turns in and out

From neutral position cach hand or foot turns in and out

Then we combine the basics, 2 at a time. Now this is where it starts to get confusing. You have to pay attention which hands stays on the spot and which moves. Some of the pictures seem the same, but they are not. So pay close attention. Once you get them once, the second time is easier.

Combination. From a narrow position each hand or foot moves forward and then backwards. From a wide position each hand or foot moves forward and then backwards

Combination. From a narrow position each hand or foot moves forward and then backwards. From a wide position each hand or foot moves forward and then backwards

Combination. From narrow and then wide position, each foot or hand turns out and then in.

Combination. From narrow and then wide position, each foot or hand turns out and then in.

Combination. From neutral position each hand or foot moves forward and backwards as well as twisting in and out

Combination. From neutral position each hand or foot moves forward and backwards as well as twisting in and out

I love these variations because it keeps my mind going. Instead of keeping the same position and just move up and down, I move in all directions, I never get bored, my mind is continuously working thinking about the next hand/foot movement.

The last combinations are achieved by using all 3 basics. So let’s say you keep the right hand on the spot. The left goes to the left, forward and twists in. Then keep it where it is and twist out. Then, keep it wide to the left, bring it backwards (under the line) and twist in and out.

Keep right hand/foot on the spot. Place the left hand/foot in a wide and then narrow position, move it forward then backwards and also turn in and out

Keep right hand/foot on the spot. Place the left hand/foot in a wide and then narrow position, move it forward then backwards and also turn in and out

Keep left hand/foot on the spot. Place the right hand/foot in a wide and then narrow position, move it forward and then backwards and also turn in and out

Keep left hand/foot on the spot. Place the right hand/foot in a wide and then narrow position, move it forward and then backwards and also turn in and out

There are many, many other combinations, you can do the same hand positions and place feet on a platform. But you have 53 here, if you do the whole lot in one go, and correct, it will be enough.

Enjoy it and let me know if you have any questions. I checked the pictures many times and did them as well, so I don’t think there are any errors, if you find any let me know.

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Flexibility and Stretching: How to Stretch, When to Stretch

I advice everyone to perform any stretching under supervision. A lot of muscular and joint damage can occur if the technique is not correct. I have listed here some guidelines and contraindication but these are not enough to avoid injury.

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Training Your Stability Muscles Can Make Your Body Stronger

The hidden small muscles which support and carry our body. The stability muscles which keep us standing when we lose our balance.

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Is drinking loads of water really necessary?

I was a kid who struggled to get those 8 glasses per day of water. Sure, I eat a fruits and vegetables but drinking pure water… I still struggle.

Now, as a Personal Trainer, I have to walk the talk. And since this is a website for active people I thought this contradicting subject is worth thinking about. In Martial Arts the situation is slightly different when it comes to drinking water before, during and after the session but I will not discuss this here.

I went on researching what studies have to say and see for myself whether the 8 glasses per day are really that important.

drop-of-water

drop-of-water

 

  1. Water is pure life.
    • Our body is made up of 70-75% water.
    • Human blood is approximately 90% water.
    • Your liver is 96% water
    • Muscle is about 75% water.

    Most of the chemical reactions in our body need water to take place. Furthermore if we need nutrients to go around the body then we need water again. Have you ever wondered why 71% of Earth’s surface is water? Water is life.

    water-bottles

    water-bottles

  2. The 8 glasses per day is not really the right way to go. NHS UK and Harvard School of Public Health both agree that the amount people should drink depends on a range of factors, such as their size, their temperature, the weather, how much they eat and how active they are.We get some water from food but most of it comes from drinks. I would add here that we should not consider water with sugar or alcohol as contributing to our daily water intake, some consider it, I don’t.Of course fruit juices are great but no bought from the shop unless you know and see them making it in front of you otherwise I would not consider that sugar-free. Fizzy drinks, squashes and juice drinks contain lots of sugar and very few nutrients.
    splashing-water

    splashing-water

  3. Actually, lots of water has little benefits. University of Pennsylvania scientists say that, some people, such as athletes, need to drink a water a lot. But they found little evidence that flushing out toxins through drinking a lot of water improved health.They say that the body naturally asks for water making us thirsty but there are arguments used to justify drinking extra.Dr DanNegoianu, and Dr Stanley Goldfarb, writing for the Journal of the American SocietyofNephrology, say that while dehydration can be harmful, there is little evidence that large amounts of water offer any benefits.They said there was no evidence supporting the standard US recommendation of “8×8” – eight glasses, each containing eight ounces of water (a total of 1.8litres), a day. A small trial founds that drinking more water may lead to fewer headaches, but they say that the results were not statistically significant.In the UK the recommendations vary slightly, 6-8 small glasses per day, equivalent to 1.2 liters. The British Nutrition Foundation opted for slightly more, between 1.5 and two liters. This is confusing isn’t it? Moving on.
    flat-abdomen

    flat-abdomen

  1. Drinking water losing weight? Now here is the big debate.There are many opinions about weight loss by drinking water. It kind of makes sense if you think that water helps digestion and cleanses the body. But I think it makes even more sense to say that because we drink water we may eat less so in fact the weight loss comes from less calorie intake.It is obvious that replacing high calories drinks with water will help with weight loss. There is no need for any research there if you ask me. Fewer calories leads to weight loss, should be that right? No, we have to complicate things as always.The research. Drinking 2 x 8-ounce(about 200 ml) glasses of water before breakfast, lunch, and dinner while also cutting back on portions may help you lose weight and keep it off for at least a year, according to research presented at an annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, in Boston.The main reason they lost weight though is that water helps fill their stomach, making them less hungry and less likely to overeat, the study shows. Also drinking more water may discourage you from drinking soda and other calorie beverages.
    books

    books

    Many diet books state that drinking water is the secret to weight loss. This may be true but the research conflicts. Two studies, one in 2003 and one in 2007, showed that consuming lots of water boosted the number of calories burned in a day.

    A study 2008 published in Obesity suggested that drinking water may lower energy intake or alter metabolism. But there is a study in 2006 showing that water had no effect on energy expenditure.

    Thus actually the weight loss comes from eating less because we drink more water, or replace high calorie drinks.

    human-brain

    human-brain

  1. The human brain is approximately 85% water. Water can also have a psychological effect and a study shows that it may help students improve their grades by up to 10%.This study, from the universities of East London and Westminster UK, observed 447 psychology students, 71 were in their foundation year, 225 were first-years and 151 were in their second year, and took into account the students’ academic studies, by examining coursework grades.In this study it was observed that the more mature students (those in their second year of degree study) brought water to their exams in comparison with the younger and could expect to see grades improved by up to 10%. Across the whole group, the improvement in marks was 4.8% for water-drinking students.
    anxiety

    anxiety

  2. Water can alleviate anxiety. In the same study, Dr Chris Pawson, from the University of East London, said that drinking water can have a psychological effect on thinking functions. He also added that further research is needed but it is clear that students try to stay hydrated during exams.

 

Ok, let’s sum this up. There are so many people saying this and that, so many studies contradict one another. Who is right and who is wrong. Life would be a lot easier if we only listened to our bodies before we go ahead and drink 2 liters of water today. The amount of water you drink depends on many different factors but you need to listen to your body first.

water-drop

water-drop

I try to teach this to my students. Listen, listen and listen some more. Your body will tell you everything you need to know, everything.

We get so caught up, saying we are busy and all, but are we really that busy to forget that we have a body and that body, if ignored, will eventually stop functioning properly? And then we sit and wonder hmm, how and when did this happen?

Just think about it…

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Daito Ryu the ancient system of unarmed and armed combat

I had the honour to study Daito Ryu for a while and I wanted to learn more about it so I did a quick research to understand this style better. Of course one can only understand a style by practicing. However there are not many options when it comes to Daito Ryu Schools.

Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu originally called Daitō-ryū Jujutsu was created by Minamoto Shinra Saburo, but became known, later, in the 20th century under Takeda Sokaku.

Aikido Training Section

Aikido Training Section

Daito Ryu has its roots in the Minamoto Samurai Clan

Daito Ryu has its origins in Minamoto Samurai Clan. The origins of Daitō-ryū maintain a direct lineage extending approximately 900 years  originating with Shinra Saburō Minamoto no Yoshimitsu who was a Minamoto clan samurai.

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu is a form of jujutsu. Jujutsu is a system of unarmed fighting and minor weapons techniques to defeat both armed and unarmed opponents.

Daito Ryu does not include any type of competitive matches. It is an art developed as a self defence against unprovoked violence, created to  neutralize violence. Daito Ryu also relies on using forms (kata) to train in the art but again there are no competitions.

Gumdo / Kendo / Iaido

Gumdo / Kendo / Iaido

Perfected in battlefield warfare dissecting corpses

Daito ryu is an ancient system of unarmed and armed combat founded by Minamoto Shinra Saburo during the Heian period (794-1156) and perfected in battlefield warfare. The techniques were most fully systematised by Takeda Sokaku with sword and unarmed techniques practiced together. It was the first and only tradition focused upon aiki-jujutsu.

Minamoto studied the body’s secrets by dissecting corpses. This fascinates me. He researched the body’s weak points to discover how most effectively to attack them with a sword and how to apply locks to joints. Then he learnt how muscles support the skeletal structure. The knowledge was passed to his descendants in the Takeda family and Daito Ryu was further developed there.

Takeda Sokaku Sensei formalised and named modern Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu. With his knowledge and skill in Daito Ryu and Ono-ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu, he travelled all over Japan on foot, teaching and meeting all challengers until his death in 1943 at 89. In 70 years of martial travels he remained undefeated.

Takeda Sokaku’s son, Takeda Tokimune Sensei, organised the curriculum of 2,884 techniques into a more readily teachable syllabus in line with the modern kyu/dan grade system designed by Kano Jigoro. Techniques up to the 5th dan are included in the Shoden syllabus of 118 techniques plus many henka (variations). Techniques are executed from sitting and standing positions and against attacks from behind.

Martial Arts Weapons

Martial Arts Weapons

Daito Ryu, the ancestor of Aikido

Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido, was Takeda’s best-known student.  Morihei Ueshiba practiced Daito Ryu for 20 years, gradually changing techniques and formulating his own system. He received Kaishaku Sodensho, from Takeda Sokaku, the highest Daito-ryu certificate at the time.

Many modern Martial Arts variations originated from disciplines of Daito Ryu core style: Shorinji kenpo, hapkido, Kodokan judo.

The difference between Aikido and Daito-ryu

“The difference between Aikido and Daito-ryu in the eyes of the general public is that in techniques of Daito-ryu you must break the balance of your opponent the instant you touch him. This is because there is aiki in the technique, which is used to break the balance of the opponent. This is a major characteristic of Daito-ryu” according to Katsuyuki Kondo who began his training in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu under one of Takeda Sokaku’s leading students, Hosono Tsunejiro.

Tanimoto Aikido Sensei

Tanimoto Sensei teaching in Italy, Ukes: Alan Pellegrini, Arturo Bassato (2014)

Although each Martial Arts is as different as each individual who practices it, in my research I found these Daito Ryu particularities:

  • Small circles. Daito-ryu techniques make use of very small circles compared to similar but more modern styles.
  • Throwing techniques. In general, most modern throwing techniques are adjusted to be more fluid and less destructive. Their older counterparts cause hard, judo-style falls. Traditional Ryu takes the attitude “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the fire.” Techniques are not altered to protect students. I remember my first Daito Ryu session, there is no regression of anything, I just got thrown into it, literally. I did projections (throws) and was projected from my first session although I never did such things before.
  • Life and Death. Daito-Ryu is the old martial/military tradition of the samurai in life and death fight.
  • Created to destroy. Daito-Ryu was created to kill, not to just put down the opponent. That’s one of the things I remember form Sensei. That’s probably why I am interested in this style. It’s less perfected I guess.

Daito-ryu School teaches a complete martial art from empty hand to weapons:

  • hand-to-hand combat techniques with atemiwaza (strike to a vital point)
  • nagewaza (throwing)
  • shimewaza (strangulation)
  • kansetsuwaza (joint-locks)
  • kyushuwaza (pressure on vital points of the human body)
  • aikinojutsu (throwing)
  • weapons (katana, yari, bo, tessen, jutte, kodachi, and more)
Kendo Training

A Kendo training hall. Kendo is one of the most commonly studied martial arts in Japanese schools and universities.

Only a very few Daito Ryu teachers have extensive knowledge of these techniques, and all of these are Japanese. Takeda Tokimune Sensei passed away in 1993 leaving no official successor, however, a few of his high ranking students now head their own Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu organisations.

There are a few teachers around the world but not enough to make the style better known.

According to Daito-Ryu Aikijujutsu website there are the locations in Europe, Oceania and North American with Dojo’s dedicated to this art. Registered ones of course.

  • Gorinchem, Holland
  • Gozo, Malta
  • Milano, Italy
  • Emilia Romagna, Italy
  • Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Los Angeles, USA
  • Philadelphia, USA
  • Richmond, USA
  • Maryland, USA
  • Ottawa, Canada
  • New-York, USA
  • Honolulu, USA
  • Miami, USA
  • New Jersey, USA
  • Baltimore, USA
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Hong Kong, Asia
  • Dojo’s in Japan

Please note that I do not claim that a certain style is better than others. I believe that each style has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. If one masters a Martial Art then he or she can fight in any given situation no matter the style.

I would like to train in Daito Ryu again. It’s am amazing style with such history.

This is a beginners video created by Sensei Sorin Lupascu who trained in Many Martial arts and Daito Ryu in Russia. I trained with him.

[youtube id=”dXFiBcGcqu8″]

 Sources:

  • http://www.daito-ryu.org/en
  • http://www.daito-ryu.com
  • http://blog.aikidojournal.com
  • http://www.blackbeltmag.com  
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Stress, anxiety and depression

We tend to try and solve our health and energy drawbacks by changing our external environment. We try and take pills, supplements in the form of shakes, energy drinks or vitamins.

Yet, if we were to look within us we would notice that probably the #1 cause for anxiety, irritable or low self exteem, drepression or loss of temper is stress.

NHS UK associates stress with: muscle tension, headaches, muscle pain and dizziness.

Stress can also cause a surge of hormones in your body. These stress hormones are released to enable you to deal with pressures or threats – the so-called “fight or flight” response, according to NHS UK.

If you’re constantly under stress, these hormones will remain in your body, leading to the symptoms of stress.

In the end stress is one of the weight gain triggers, or excessive, worring weight loss and is detrimentral to our long term health.

I think I made my point that stress is not good – I think we all know that – and, in time, can lead to serious illnesses and addiction such as drinking, smoking, eating sugar to be able to cope with it.

Money problems

Money problems

What triggers the Stress?

Anything really and, as we are all different, the triggers are different as well. However there are a few common stress triggers:

  • money problems
  • relationships
  • work  – job you hate
  • time constraints
  • holiday pressures
  • overload – taking on too many tasks
  • not enough quality time for yourself with yourself
  • striving for perfection
  • lack of passion
  • disorganized clutter – messy home, messy desk, overflowing inbox just adds to the pile
Broken-Glass

Broken-Glass

So what can you do about it?

I read quite a bit about keeping a diary and make notes of stressful episodes for 2-4 weeks.

This will help detect what causes stress in your life.

You should write down information such as:

  • the date, time and place of a stressful episode
  • what you were doing
  • who you were with
  • how you felt emotionally
  • what you were thinking
  • what you started doing
  • how you felt physically
  • a stress rating (0-10 where 10 is the most stressed you could ever feel)

I used to be a very impatient child and now I am an impatient adult, of course.
I used to be very stressed and depressed since I was, maybe, 7-8 years old.

So I created my own stress coping mechanisms.

While the diary is a really good advice which you should definitely try I will give you some of my own techniques I use to get rid of stress without drinking, smoking or overeating.

1. Breath, breath and breath some more.

Breathing exercises release muscle tension .
If you do them constantly you will feel great improvement on your stress levels, patience and coping mechanisms.
Here is a basic breathing technique: Rectangular deep abdominal breathing.

  1. In breathe & Out breathe the same length.
  2. Then the holds are longer after the in breath and the out breath. i.e. 5 seconds in breath, hold 10 seconds, out breath 5 seconds, hold 10 seconds.
  3. If you want, make the rectangle as long as is needed to take your lungs, diaphragm, and heart to the gym.
  4. Make sure you are not doing it in a dusty, dirty or polluted location. So NOT in the warehouse/storerooms, trains, busy roads. Not at work as you have lots of perfume sprays/chemicals and air conditioning all around you.
  5. You can do it before you go to bed or while you are in bed but after you leave the window open for a while.
  6. Breath through your nose, if needed breath out through your mouth

Even writing this article I find myself closing my eyes from time to time, and take a deep breath to help me focus on the task.

This takes us to the next technique

2. Close your eyes and pay attention to just 1 inhalation 1 exhalation.

This is such a powerful and calming exercise which takes only 3 seconds.

Close your eyes and pay attention

Close your eyes and pay attention

3. Stretching.

We tend to “store” stress primarily in our abdomen and shoulders but also in muscles throughout our body.

Mix stretching with breathing and closed eyes and stress and anxiety will melt away.

4. None of these working? Take a nap.

Surprised?

My mother used to say that out of 4 hours of studying while exhausted, if I slept (or just lay down with my eyes closed) for 30 min, I would be twice more productive in the time left than if I just pushed through.

To this day I prove this to myself over and over again. And when I refuse to listen to my body I prove that my mother was right all the time.

Arianna Huffington mentions sleep in her speech “The Third Metric” as well. It’s good to listen to the whole speech.

Sleeping is not a waste of time. Take a 10 min, 20 min, or 1 hour nap, you may feel tired right after it but in 5 min your mind will be fully energized.

If I have 2 hours time for a nap I am in paradise.

Dance vs Taekwondo

Follow your passion

5. Follow your passion

Many wise people talk about this and, as I found mine in the health and fitness industry, I understand how powerful and life changing this is.

Sure, it can be really, really difficult, but it’s what you love to do and you will never feel like you are working one day for the rest of your life.

Don’t let your passion orbit around your life, rather embrace it and build your future with it.

Meditation

Meditation

6. Deep meditation

I used to do this as a child as part of Karate Shotokan classes every single day without knowing what or why I was doing it.

Now a lot of people talk about it. It is not viewed as a religious practice or only reserved for certain people.

There are many free meditation programs online. I personally use Mindvalley classes and courses. They give a lot of quality classes for free and if you want more they have really good deals. They are also great, inspiring people in the team.

Alexandra Merisoiu Spartan Race

Other things to try:

  • practice your favorite sport
  • try something new
  • eat real
  • nutritious food
  • just be nice to yourself once in a while

I don’t want to make this article too long and boring. These are just a few techniques you can start using and see if any of them work for you.

You just need to find your way.

So what action will you take when you lack energy, you start gaining weight or frustrated? Will you reach for the pills or address the way you live your life?

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Healthy Snack Ideas For You

Until recently I didn’t snack, I used to eat “real food”.

However, the busier my life got – and that’s a great thing – I found I needed to snack otherwise I would end up eating 1 huge meal a day and that’s not good either.

The snacks I choose are of good quality and nutritious, I think a bit before buying and/or eating something.

To bridge the gap between meals, nutritious snacks are good to keepyour body working at full speed.

Eating healthy snacks between meals helps controlyour weight and provides healthy protein, healthy fats, fiber andcarbohydrates.

Making different choices still allows you to enjoy deliciousfoods but with the benefits of important vitamins and minerals that junk food lacks and it can also saves you calories.

Trail Mix of Nuts & Dried Fruit

Trail Mix of Nuts & Dried Fruit

1. Trail Mix of just nuts and dried fruit.

Fresh Fruit

Fresh Fruit

2. Fresh fruit would seem like such an obvious choice, but for some reason it is often overlooked as a snack choice and eaten more for desert.

Mix them with natural yoghurt to add a little protein and healthy fats.

Nuts

Nuts

3. Nuts are great for your heart because of the healthy fats they contain and, according Harvard Medical School, may help lower your levels of bad cholesterol if eaten regularly.

There is a downside to nuts – their high calorie hit, however it only takes a handful to satisfy your hunger because of the fibre and protein they contain and so you will probably not eat big amounts.

There is a misunderstanding in some cases that roasted nuts, salty nuts or any other variation is ok. Well it’s not ok, they are processed and this is what we want to avoid. Preferably the nuts should be all natural.

Lemon Cheese

Lemon Cheese

4. Low Fat Cheese like string cheese for a choice of low carb, high protein and healthy fats.

5. Popcorn is considered to be loaded with calories and so many people avoid it. It is actually a very healthy option encouraged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Air-popped popcorn is low in both calories and fat and is packed with fibre.

If you do not have an air popper and have to choose microwave popcorn, be sure to choose a brand that advertises natural popcorn and not one that is loaded with butter and salt which most of them are.

If you chose popcorn at the cinema avoid the cheese, salt, caramel or other modern varieties. They bring nothing nutritious your body can use.

Carrot Stick

Carrot Stick

6. Carrot Sticks. If you are craving potato chips, it’s possible that your mind just wants something crunchy.

7. A medium apple and milk makes for a nutritious and satisfying snack.

Apples provide you with fibre and carbohydrates and the milk gives you a boost of calcium, vitamin B12 and protein.

Cottage cheese & tomatoes

Cottage cheese & tomatoes

8. Cottage cheese contains protein, which encourages weight loss and the building of lean muscle tissue, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. It also contains calcium and riboflavin.

You enjoy cottage cheese on its own, but if you are craving something sweet, add some of your favourite fresh fruits such as blueberries, sliced peaches, strawberries or pineapple.

I take cottage cheese with me on my Obstacle Races especially when I race in the cold season.

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt

9. If you have ice cream on your mind, you can reach for frozen yogurt instead. Frozen yogurt contains fewer calories than ice cream and comes in a variety of flavours.Many frozen yogurt options contain no fat but you should look for brands that contain very little sugar, as too much sugar defeats the purpose of choosing an ice cream alternative.

Fat is not a bad thing, it is an important element to maintain homeostasis, the property of a system in which variables are regulated to keep internal conditions functioning at optimal level. Instead of topping your frozen yogurt with caramel sauce or sprinkles, try some raspberries on top.

Greek yogurt with raspberries and honey

Greek yogurt with raspberries and honey

 10. Greek yogurt with raspberries and honey.

Sweet, creamy, and filling, this trio feels completely indulgent.

The combination of fiber, healthy fats, and protein are sure to get you over any 3pm slump.

Combine a single-serving container of Greek yogurt, a cup of raspberries, and a half-tablespoon of honey.

Grapes

Grapes

11. Grapes and walnuts

No matter how much you love either, there are only so many you can eat. That’s because grapes are very high in sugar and walnuts are high in fats and even more filling.

A cup of grapes and a handful of walnuts together are a power-combo of natural sugars, fiber, healthy fats, and protein—all of which make for more long-lasting energy.

There are things we cannot control but when it comes to eating it is only about what we can control.

 

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