Party Tips Your Mama May or May Not Have Taught You

As I walk out adulthood on a new level… married, making “couple friends” with my husband, hosting parties and attempting to be a good guest at other events… there are a couple of “tips” I wanted to get out in writing to remember for myself and also share with others. Some lessons I’m learning on my own through experience and some I’ve gleaned from my mom through the years.

In particular, this summer I’ve had flashbacks of memories of advice my mom gave me about going to and hosting parties and picnics. And a couple of these tips I realized on my own that are important to have an easy, fun time at social gatherings like picnics and barbecues.

  1. Bring a dish you know YOU will like to potlucks and parties

So many times through the years, I’ve arrived to a picnic or potluck and looking at the spread of food my eyes (bigger than my stomach of course) have grown big with disappointment as I looked at all there was to eat, yet nothing appealed to me. Allergies, food sensitivities, and general preferences can keep a lot of people from eating “just anything.” When it comes to parties, you will have a more enjoyable time knowing you can put something on your plate that you prepared and know you like, especially if you have a longer day out planned.

I made the mistake of counting on food at a party once and brought a dessert that I knew would be enjoyed by most people (No Bake Cookies anyone?). Well, when it came to the main course, I was stuck with a plate of fruit and salad that I had to pick through to avoid the cheese tossed through it (lactose intolerant over here). I could have had a more pleasurable meal had I not just considered dessert, but also a more filling main dish or side dish of my own to bring that I knew I would and could eat.

2. When hosting a party, share what you’ll be providing in advance

This relates to point number 1. It’s just polite to share what you’ll be serving or providing in advance so others can make plans if they have allergies or food preferences that are different. They can bring a side or main meal that appeals to them. Don’t assume that what you like everyone will like. Let others get in on the fun and share… I know people enjoy sharing recipes and food, it’s part of what makes humanity so great, sharing a meal together. Let others get in on the process and give proper notice so they can plan on their end.

3. If you can leave a topping on the side, do it

Things like cheese, croutons, nuts, etc. can make the difference of someone eating or not eating a food at a party. If you can, leave the easy toppings on the side that people can choose to put on their portion.

My Jamaican husband makes some of the spiciest food for other people. I’ve always loved spicy foods, and love his cooking, but not everyone can handle it. We have learned that his cooking is too spicy for some group events and decided we can add some spice for flavor/ effect, but if we want it “extra spicy” (aka traditional Jamaican flavor), then we need to keep the hot sauce and peppers on the side. Once it’s in the dish it can’t be taken out. Similarly, I have an aunt who always says at events, “Now there’s no salt in this, so you’ll want to add your own amount that you like.” She knows people may have sodium problems or just don’t like foods as salty, and that’s totally fine. A salt shaker is always there to add more.

These are a few tips that I’ve applied to my own life this summer. Events centered on good food are important and fun, and when the food goes well, the party goes well! What other tips do you have for potlucks, picnics, and barbecues? Summer may be closing out soon, but fall socials and the holiday season are just as important to remembering food tips for yourself and others.


{Q&A} Fitness, Nutrition or Both?

{Q & A} Featuring Rachel Mateo on Fitness, Nutrition, or Both?

Part one of a two part Q&A Interview with Rachel Mateo which answers the question: should you focus on fitness or nutrition more? It also touches on mindsets when it comes to body image and overall health.

Rachel has 15 years of personal training experience and a B.S. in Exercise Science. She currently works for Juice Plus+ as a Qualifying National Marketing Director, inspiring healthy living around the world by teaching on nutrition, and she is a certified group fitness instructor with Body By Rachel online and recently Fitology. She loves her husband and their dog May. She spends weekends traveling from Pennsylvania, her home state, to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware where she gets the freedom to run and play with the dog in the water.

Q: Weight lifting vs Cardio: How often do you get each into your weekly workouts? A: I do some form of cardio about 6 days a week and like to have variety in modality and intensity. This may include online cardio classes, running outdoors, body-weight/plyometric exercises, hiking, etc. As for weightlifting, usually 2-3 days with a focus on total body training each time… also gets the heart rate up which I feel is a great bonus!

Q: What would you recommend to a novice in the world of fitness in getting started on a workout routine for the first time? A: When first beginning to exercise, I feel it is very important to work with a professional (or at least someone you know who is seasoned and knowledgeable) to assist you in proper form and technique. Begin with the basics to build a good foundation. Try not to overdo the duration and intensity and give yourself proper rest/recovery in between workouts.

Q: What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to fitness and nutrition? Why? A: To focus on more than just your micronutrition (carbs, proteins, fats). These building blocks of any diet first and foremost need to be quality: Limiting/eliminating highly processed foods and anything artificial, while focusing on whole food. Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural. Energy goes up and therefore you can have better workouts, better recovery, better results.

Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural.

Rachel mateo

Q: How much do you recommend women eat calorie wise to maintain health when working out? Are calories even important? Why or Why not? A: There is something to be said for being aware of your calories in versus calories out, but it certainly should not be the sole focus. When you focus on eating clean, nutrient-rich whole foods you’re feeding your body what it truly needs so you can feel satisfied and maintain good will power. There can still be “too much of a good thing”, so when it comes to even your healthy, quality macronutrition, be aware of portion sizes, eat slowly and mindfully, and do not eat too late at night. I personally like to leave a 14 hour window from my last meal/snack of the day until my first the next day. When you stay within this eating window making health your priority in your choices your body has the chance to utilize these quality calories when they’re needed during your daily activities and then fully rest/recover at night.

Q: How do you fuel your body to work out each day? A: I live by the “WFPB” concept (Whole Food Plant Based). Not to say I’m vegan or vegetarian, but I’m mainly focused on trying to take in the most high quality nutrient and antioxidant foods. My complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and quality proteins come in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nut butters,oats and gluten free grains, beans, organic vegan protein powders, almond milk, nondairy yogurt, etc. I do add in some eggs, fish/seafood and chicken from time to time, but not daily. So as an example, before a workout I’ll enjoy a light snack of an apple with almond butter or clementine with a handful of raw mixed nuts, and then post workout I’ll blend up a big filling smoothie with things like berries, almond milk, vegan protein powder, flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut yogurt and cinnamon. Good energy in, good energy out!

Q: Do you put more value on nutrition or workouts? Why? A: Both are integral parts of total mind/body health, but when it comes to weight management, disease prevention, mood, energy, etc. nutrition takes the front seat. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t outrun your fork”? It’s basically to say that diet is about 80% of the equation when trying to lose weight. Same concept goes for when trying to build muscle or simply change the shape of your body. Workouts are certainly important for your metabolism and strengthening/building your muscles as well as creating a calorie deficit, but exercise alone could never get you there. At least not safely, healthfully and sustainably. We need the nutrition not only to repair the microtears in our muscles as we work them, but also play a huge role in recovery, neutralization of oxidative stress, decreasing of systemic inflammation, etc.

Q: How do you balance body image with being content with where you are and pursuing a certain look with being physically fit? What would you say to a woman struggling with body image concerns? How does mindset play a role in your own fitness and coaching? A: It’s not easy when we’re bombarded with images on tv, movies, social media, advertising… all putting labels on what is acceptable. We have to do our best to focus on our health and wellbeing first and know that our individual body type/shape is very unique. Instead of fighting an against the grain in an uphill battle to try to dramatically pursue a look that may not be the way your body is designed, try taking some time to really focus on the best YOU you can be. More intense/focused dieting and exercise routines (if done properly) may be ok for a short period of time, but it’s then more important to think of things in the long term. What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection. Then ultimately asking yourself: What is my motivation? Why do I want to look this certain way? If it’s centered around a positive, healthy result, go for it and seek professional guidance to help you in that direction. Also, choose an accountability buddy who also has similar goals as you. Having someone to talk to about your successes and struggles lets you know you’re not alone in your challenges and also makes it more fun to create your new healthy habits!

What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection.

Rachel Mateo

Deep Dish Chicago

Got a chance to bite into this crazy city. Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, River Boat Tour, J. Alexander’s food and drinks, old friends, new friends. Luckily it was a Bye week, so no Football Production for me, and my dear friend Dan took me on a 3 day tour of his new home. Loved visiting Chicago for the first time. My eyes were opened to a different side of the city that I only hear crime stories of in the news. I experienced friendly people and a good time all around. I’d go back for sure, even if it was only to get another slice of that deep dish pizza. (Which you eat with a fork by the way. Who knew?!)

PS. You know that Bean? The shiny one in the middle of Millennium Park? Yeah. It’s not a Bean. It’s actually called Cloud Gate and is supposed to give a perspective of being “weightless” as it reflects the city around the person. I guess it worked for me? If you ever get to Chicago stand in the center of the Bean and look up. It’s pretty cool.















Or at least that’s what a man at the Venetian hotel passed along to my friends and I, while in search of brunch on our second day in Vegas.

This isn’t going to be a  long post, but as a Vegas first timer celebrating my birthday weekend with friends, there were a lot of things that surprised me about this Disneyland for grownups.

It was so clean! Disney is the one other place I know that spends resources on clean up. With all the partying, shows, and people from around the world, Vegas was on point with looking pristine.

Everyone was so nice! I assumed there would be a lot of people super into themselves, but everyone just wanted to have a good time. People smiled at each other. Men held doors open for women. Waiters and waitresses started short conversations with us. There was even one group of women who looked out for me at a pool party when I had a small incident with my swim suit. The kindness of people around us was a welcome surprise.

The food was amazing! It didn’t matter where we ate, I loved the food. Brunch with coffee I didn’t even need creamer for. Buffets with all you can eat crab legs. Hotels with an endless amount of choices for food spots. I came back and had to detox from everything. I’d do it again though.

Lastly, the variety of people who come and how they do Vegas. Old, young, families, bachelors… There are shows, site seeing, gambling, clubs. The weekend I went to celebrate my birthday there was a big Nascar race, Rugby game, MMA fight, and it was the first weekend of Spring Break for many students. So much happens in Vegas, and you can keep it classy if you want!

Of course, as I work in media, I borrowed my friends GoPro for the weekend and had fun remembering my trip from last weekend by putting together the short video below. Though my feet were sore from dancing and I went on a detox from all the food quickly after returning home, it was the best way to ring in a new birthday year!

Shout out to the friends who were down to celebrate! You ladies made it worth it on so many levels. LOVE YOU!