Stand & Stay Healthy: My DIY Standing Desk

Yesterday NPR released THIS ARTICLE about how sitting at desks (aka sedentary lives) are “killing us,” and how moving can stop the death march.

While I think it’s a little overly dramatic, research has proven that the average American lifestyle includes about 15 hours work of sedentary time (including sleeping). On the bright side, research has also found that taking small breaks from sitting (no matter how long the break) is associated with lower waist circumference (how round you are), triglycerides (how much fat is in your blood stream) and and blood glucose (how much sugar is in your blood stream) levels.

However, as the NPR article points out…no one is really shouting from the mountain tops how long breaks should be or what the best practices are for getting in more active time.

The not-so-popular truth is we as individuals need to start taking responsibility for our health and realizing that it took a long time to build our bad habits… so it may take awhile and some serious effort to break them.

Weight loss and health doesn’t come from 1 hour at the gym after a 1 hour commute (where we sit), a desk job (where we sit), and another 1 hour commute home (while we, yes, sit). It takes some creativity! Some ingenuity! And, gasp… some forethought!

So, not that it’s any sort of a best practice, but here is how I keep active.

1.) I built myself a standing desk. I literally googled DIY Standing Desk… It cost $22 :-)

Standing Desk

It’s not an fancy-schmancy automatic one, so it takes a little effort to set it up. But, I usually set it up after lunch and stand for the rest of my afternoon.

2.) I park my car about 10 minutes away from the door to my office… on purpose.

3.) I drink a lot of water. It’s a win-win situation… I’m properly hydrated AND the bathroom is about a 2 minute walk out of my office.

4.) I schedule my exercise, I make it social, and I do things that I enjoy! My calendar lis filled with appointments for after work run clubs, biking meet ups, and occasional lunch breaks where I leave the office to go swim some laps. I enjoy meeting up with people to play volleyball, go hiking, or go explore a new part of town. I decided a long time ago that if I didn’t choose activities that I enjoyed doing, I’d never do them. 

5.) I hang out with other active people. Now, I realize you can’t just easily change your friend group and you definitely can’t change your family. But, research also suggests that the old phrase, birds of a feather flock together, is very true. Want to be more active? Find people who want that for themselves too!

6.) I stand whenever possible. Out with friends at a bar?… No stool for me thanks. Riding the subway or bus? You can have this seat Ms. Parks. Bout to board a plane? I’m the last person on and I circle the terminal during layovers.

7.) I protect my sleep! How does that help being active you ask? Well, if you’re not getting adequate or restful sleep, you’re not going to want to be active the next day! I spray my sheets with relaxing lavender linen spray and/or I diffuse some relaxing scents in my bedroom before bed.


Linen Spray

What do you do to stay active?

#TBT? No no no…#TTO…Endless Uses

I have a growing love for essential oils and this little image from Swanson Vitamins came into my inbox today… thought I’d share the wonders of Tea Tree Oil (TTO).

Tea Tree Oil

Personally, I use it as a skin cleanser. It has anti-bacterial properties so placing a small amount on blemishes a few minutes prior to washing you face helps kill the surface bacteria. Some people hate the smell though, but you can add some Sweet Orange essential oil to the tea tree for use on your face… not only does it enhance the smell, it also helps with pore cleansing as well (win-win!).

What’s your fave #essentialoil?

NIRSA FitExpo Here I Come!

It’s been a long long time since I’ve written anything. Although I did write a few guest posts on the UPMC Health Matters Blog!

Check ’em Out!

Simple Red Smoothie Recipe


3 Quick & Healthy Breakfast Ideas


Now that my internship at UPMC and grad school is winding down, I thought it was high time that I get back into the swing of things. What better way than to share something exciting!

This coming weekend I’ll be attending the NIRSA (National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association) Region 1 Fitness Expo in New Jersey, and I’ll be presenting! :-o

I submitted a proposal to teach a class on HIIT (high intensity interval training) cycling, and it was accepted. So, yours truly will be leading some fellow health and fitness professionals in the Northeast Region through an intense HIIT class on Sunday! Whoop whoop!

So, I wanted to share the info I created for it. Enjoy and if you replicate it or share it give credit where credit’s due por favor :-)

HIIT Cycle pg 1HIIT Cycle pg 2

What the Heck is Queen-Nah…Salad

I love football (even though the Steelers aren’t doing so great this season…sigh). I also love witty football commercials. And this one, this happens to be one of my faves…

It’s actually pronounced “keen-wah” but hey that’s close enough. What’s more important is that it doesn’t (or at least doesn’t have to) taste a dirty tree branch! I make a delicious quinoa salad that I thought I’d share since it makes an awesome dish for potlucks and parties (and umm in case you forgot party season is upon us!) So without further ado…

Italian Roasted Tomato Quinoa Salad


Delicious quinoa salad! If you leave out the parm cheese it’s also a dairy free/vegan recipe!


  • 1C dry quinoa (any kind) rinsed thoroughly… if you don’t rinse quinoa it will taste nast-teeeee
  • 2C water (or chicken/veg broth if you want it to be extra tasty)
  • Approx 4C grape or cherry tomatoes… really any tomatoes would work
  • 3 cloves of fresh garlic (peeled, smashes, and roughly chopped)
  • 2 springs of fresh rosemary or Italian flat leaf parsley it’s cheap and yes, it makes a HUGE difference
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C fresh grated Parmesan cheese (optional…clearly leave it out if you’re dairy free)
  1. Cook quinoa following normal method: Boil water, add quinoa, return to boil, reduce heat, simmer until little halos form around the quinoa grains.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  3. Line baking sheet with tin foil and curl up sides (or cook in a shallow baking dish)
  4. Toss tomatoes, garlic and rosemary in EVOO; add salt and pepper to taste.

Mmm… looks so tasty right!? IMG_4089

  1. Bake for approx 30min or until the tomatoes begin to burst, give up their juices. (I like to turn on the broiler after they burst to get a nice char on them too!)
  2. Mix tomatoes and all of that juicy goodness into your cooked quinoa, add cheese, stir and enjoy!

I eat mine on Romaine lettuce leaves like as a sort of non-traditional lunch time lettuce wrap. ENJOY!

(no)sugar, spice & everything nice

It was C-O-L-D cold this week! And that meant two things…

1.) I felt the need to listen to Christmas music! (And thus broke my anti-Christmas-music-before-thanksgiving stance)

2.) I’ve entered into every minute of the day hot beverage mode.

Now during the day I drink my fair share of black coffee. But that caffeine can get to your head (even though my homemade blend is 1/2caff)…especially before bed. So, I branch out to my homemade Peppermint Mocha. It’s delicious, dairy-free, sugar-free and all of 15 calories. BOOM, you’re welcome…enjoy!

image1 (1)

Skinny Peppermint Mocha

  • 1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp stevia powder
  • Hot water (or half hot water, half almond milk)
  • 1 Peppermint tea bag

Mix together first three ingredients. Let tea steep for approx 3 minutes. Stir, sip, savor.

Who needs Starbucks?!?? :-D


Fall in American no longer means the leaves are changing colors or the weather is get cooler… it means pumpkin spice everything! Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice Jell-O pudding, pumpkin spice creamers and cookies and liquors!

And, you know what? I friggin LOVE it!

Here’s my logic…


Fall=pumpkin spice everything.

Therefore, Sara+pumpkin spice everything= love.

(Undergrad philosophy 101 did teach me something after all.)

However, I don’t enjoy how pumpkin spice everything usually means processed everything. So, I’ve made a few deliciously non-processed pumpkin-laden things over the past few weeks and thought I’d share. (especially since the last time I posted was way way way way too long ago).

Pumpkin Spice Oat Bars


  • 2.5C rolled oats
  • 1 tsp powdered stevia
  • 1 TBPS cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of all spice
  • 1C pumpkin puree
  • 1 TBSP vanilla
  • any other add-ins you enjoy (craisins or fresh cranberries with a little extra melted honey are a great addition! and I usually add in a scoop or two of protein powder to make them a more well-rounded snack)
  • TIP: add a dash of almond milk if it looks too dry or a little more pumpkin

Mix dry, add wet, PRESS (really press) into a pan (smaller pan if you want em thicker, bigger pan if you want em thin… but the thinner they are the more likely they are to crumble!)

Bake in 350 degree oven  for ~10-12 minutes or until the tops are dry to the touch.

Overnight Slow-cooker Pumpkin Butter


  • 1 medium “pumpkin pie” pumpkin
  • 1/2C coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of all spice
  • 2 TBPS cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 C water
  1. Gut the pumpkin like you would a jack-o-lantern. (Clean and roast the seeds if you love some peppitas on your oatmeal like I do).
  2. Split it in half and place flesh side down in a casserole dish with about 1 in of water in the bottom.
  3. Roast in 350 degree over until you can pierce the skin easily with a knife.
  4. Allow to cool and then skin the pumpkin.
  5. Place pumpkin flesh and all other ingredients in a crockpot.
  6. Allow to cook on low overnight (8 hours) or on high for ~4 hours.
  7. Puree in a high-end blender or with a blender stick.
  8. Enjoy on everything… even cardboard. :-D

TIP: if you’re having a hard time blending it add some apple cider/juice to it to help the process.

Enjoy all the tasty pumpkin treats this season! And, feel free to share your faves below!

Change & Chewsday

I love inspirational quotes, mantras, verses, and anything else that makes you go “yea, right on!” when you read it. One in particular came to mind this morning as I substitute taught a fitness class…


To be honest the first quote that came to mind is “sticks and stones may breaks my bones buuuuttt…” this one seemed more positive ;-) There are people that HATE change mainly because they are unwilling to try anything new, and a met one of those ladies today in the locker room after class. All that came to mind is, if we repeatedly do the same things over and over again (no matter if it’s fitness related or not) eventually we become numb to them. And last time I checked being numb, stale, or constantly maintaining the status quo in lift is not only boring, but also unhealthy. I’ll add one more mantra for good measure… variety is the spice of life! So, here’s to trying something new and not whining when you’re forced to do it :-)

What’s one thing you can change TODAY that will make your life healthier, more fun, or just spice things up?

Well, you could make a new recipe! I put a new twist on one of my favorite bake-ahead recipes (I usually cook 2-3 recipes the first weekend of the month and then freeze half or more for quick lunches/dinners) and I thought I’d share it!


Spicy Stuffed Peppers


  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1/2C brown rice dry (par-boil it…aka cook it halfway)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced or grated)
  • 1 TBSP chili powder
  • 1 TBSP paprika
  • 1 TBSP oregano (mexican if you have it)
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced (this is where you can control the spice!)
  • 2 TBSP fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 small can (6-8oz) of tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 green peppers, cleaned


  • 2 large cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1-2 TBSP of the adobo sauce from the chipotles
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl mix all ingredients except peppers and crushed tomatoes together until well incorporated. Place peppers upright in a baking dish. Fill evenly with meat mixture (I used a medium ice cream disher to be sure they were all evenly filled…two scoops each!). Mix sauce ingredients until desired spiciness. Pour over peppers. Cover dish with aluminium foil and bake for approximately 1 hour or until peppers are soft and meat is fully cooked.

As you can see I enjoy mine over a bed of spinach. :-) They’re the perfect lunch option! One pepper is about 250 calories: 15g of protein, 13g of fat and 19 carbs.

Buen provecho!