Category: Tips & Tricks (Page 1 of 6)

8 Tips for Eating Healthy on the Go

Would you be shocked to hear that almost 20% of meals eaten in the U.S. are eaten in the car?

Sometimes, when I share this statistic, people are surprised it’s not higher, but notice the word MEALS. We’re not talking about the occasional snack or latte. One out of every five meals eaten in this country are eaten in the car while we’re driving.

It’s as though we’ve made food one of our last priorities, settling for what is convenient above all else. In doing so, we’re bypassing the power of digestion by rushing through meals at the same time we’re operating a vehicle. We’re making quick feel-good food choices when we eat away from home, not realizing that we could just as easily pick a nourishing meal that tastes delicious.

I’m here to help. Because I’ve learned how to do it, no matter where I am. My hope is that applying these ideas will boost your confidence in making choices that nourish your body and brain and don’t break the bank. You’ll be able to walk away from the table feeling satisfied instead of stuffed.

It’s totally possible to eat well, even when you’re on the go as often as I am. Here are my top tips for how to make it happen no matter how busy your life is or where you’re traveling.

1) Become a Menu Detective

Restaurants use lots of creative language to get us to order certain items off the menu. But we can outsmart them if we know what those words mean. Take a look at the two lists below. One contains words that describe foods I do my best to avoid because of how I feel after eating them (not good) and the other is packed with adjectives that I opt for when I’m making a selection off the menu.

Eat This: Roasted, Baked, Braised, Steamed, Poached, Broiled, Grilled, Pan-Seared, Sautéed (ask for less oil), Stir-Fried (ask for less oil)

Not That: Creamed, Fried, Smothered, Tempura, Crispy, Breaded, Charred

If you see a menu item prepared using one of the “Not That” options, ask your server if they can prepare it using one of the “Eat This” options above. If the food is fresh, there should not be any reason why they can’t accommodate your request.

2) Plan Ahead and Pack

Did you know that if you pack your lunch every work day and you work for 30 years, you would save $112,000?

That’s A LOT OF MONEY.

Remember back in grade school when you had a lunchbox and a thermos? They make them for adults! You can buy an inexpensive lunchbox at Target, Home Goods or on Amazon, among other places. I also bought a thermos that I use to put reheated leftovers in to keep them warm until lunchtime. I also pack smoothies, and the thermos keeps them cold for several hours as well.

This is the thermos I have. I like it because it has a folding spoon built into the lid!

Here are some ideas for what to pack in your lunchbox:

  • Oatmeal with berries and nut butter
  • Overnight oats like these three recipes from my blog
  • Smoothies (thermoses keep food cold, too!)
  • Leftover soups, stews, chilis (this is our #1 go to)
  • Mason jar salads like this one
  • Canned wild caught salmon with brown rice and sugar snap peas or served on top of a salad
  • Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store served with a salad and quick cooking brown rice
  • Bean/lentil and rice blends from Eden Organics (sold at MOMs Organic Market, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Target). I like to add in some sautéed spinach
  • This simple Chipotle-style burrito bowl

3) Snack Smart

I also like to have snacks on hand for when I haven’t planned meals and need something to sustain me between meals. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Fresh veggies with hummus, guacamole, almond butter (cut up celery & carrots and put in glass baking dish with water in fridge, swap water after 1 week = fresh veggies for 2 weeks)
  • Fruit: apples, clementines, pears, grapes; apples or pears with almond butter / peanut butter / sunflower seed butter squeeze packets
  • Trail mix like this recipe
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
  • Crispy roasted chickpeas (brands like The Good Bean, Chickpeatos, Saffron Road, Biena)
  • Forager Project yogurt topped with Purely Elizabeth granola
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers pretzel sticks or crackers with Wholly Guacamole packets, nut or seed butter, or hummus
  • Some of my favorite brands of bars that use whole, real ingredients are Ever Bar, KIND (opt for 6 grams or less of sugar), Soul Sprout, Paleo Krunch, Rx Bars, Hemp Heart Bar. Ideally you want less than 10 grams of sugar along with some fiber and protein. My hubby’s faves are Epic Bars and Mighty Bars.

4) Know Where to Go

When you’re on the road and need to stop or are meeting someone for a meal, knowing where to go is half the battle. It sets you up for success to go to a place that serves nourishing food. I intentionally seek places that are farm to table or that prioritize using fresh ingredients.  You can use the apps in Tip #5, but the ideas below should help you, too.

  • Hit up the salad bar or “to go” counter at a grocery store. Try Whole Foods Market (especially Health Starts Here options), Wegmans or Harris Teeter ($4, $6, $8, $10 meals). If we can find a Whole Foods while on the road, we know we’re golden.
  • Go global and try Indian, Thai, Greek or Mexican food. Other cultures tend to eat more colorfully than we do in the U.S. They also are much more liberal with flavorful herbs and spices, which can enhance a dish. As a gluten-free, dairy-free eater, I find that Indian or Middle Eastern restaurants are packed with lots of options I can enjoy!
  • Pick a place that lets you customize your order and fill your plate with lots of veggies. Try places like sweetgreen, Cava Grill, Chipotle, Qdoba, Roti, Chop’t, freshii, Baja Fresh, and Nalley Fresh.
  • Starbucks is my go to breakfast place because I can get steel-cut oatmeal with nuts. I sprinkle some cinnamon on it and often travel with packets of almond butter or sunflower seed butter that I squeeze and stir in to the oatmeal to make it creamier and heartier.

If you’re in the Baltimore area, check out my healthy Baltimore dining guide, which sums up my top places to eat in my hometown!

5) There’s An App for That!

When I’m traveling and don’t know where to go to find a healthy meal, I use a few apps on my phone. I wrote about each of them in this blog post, but thought I’d mention them while we’re here:

  1. Happy Cow
  2. yelp!
  3. Food Tripping
  4. Healthy Out
  5. Eat Well Guide

I highlighted the two I use most often. Happy Cow is great because it highlights plant-based options, which is how I eat, but yelp! is often more inclusive. When I’m searching in yelp!, I use words like “vegan, gluten-free, farm to table, organic, healthy” to find places that will align with my eating preferences.

6) Modify the Menu

Yup. Be that person.

The way I look at it, it’s your money and your body, so you can decide what you eat, so you feel the way you want to feel, even if you’re not cooking it yourself.

I look at the menu as a list of everything that is back in the kitchen. If I see a dish that has a side I don’t want but see another dish with one that I do (maybe roasted Brussels sprouts instead of mashed potatoes?), then I politely and graciously ask the server if they can swap them out.

Sometimes I create a meal from scratch using a variety of ingredients on the menu. I make sure I tip the server a bit extra and ask them to thank the chef. Almost every time, my request has been accommodated.

Remember, it’s YOUR body and YOUR money. Ask for what you want. The worst thing they will say is, “No.”

7) Upgrade Your Order

No matter where I am, I try to keep a simple formula in mind when deciding what to eat: 50% veggies; 25% starchy veg or whole grain; 25% protein (plant-based or animal). It helps me pick meals that are colorful and packed with antioxidant-rich foods. This plate from my health coach training is a visual of that. I opt for half the plate veggies vs. fruit, as most restaurants don’t serve my prefered fruit (berries) with meals.

Image from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition

Here are a few additional tips to help you upgrade the quality of your meal and make it more nourishing:

  1. Hold the bread. Ask for raw veggies instead. You are better than the cold, stale dinner roll!
  2. Start with a salad or broth-based soup
  3. Load up on veggies and ask to swap your starchy side dish for an additional side of veggies. Roasted veggies are my favorite!
  4. Ask for a veggie side dish as your appetizer. Roasted Brussels sprouts, anyone?
  5. Ask for vinaigrette on the side. See if they will give you lemon juice, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar and olive oil so you can make your own
  6. Add as many veggies as possible to a sandwich or burger and forego at least half of the bun. Lettuce wraps are all the rage these days!
  7. Make the best choices for condiments. Opt for things like guacamole, mustard, salsa, hummus, tahini, and chimichurri.

8) Be the Anchor

In his book, Eat Move Sleep, lifestyle expert Tom Rath shares a simple tip that has stuck with me ever since I read it.

The first person to announce what he or she is ordering sets the anchor for the entire group. If the first person ordering chooses a healthy option, it puts a little pressure on everyone else to do the same.

If you’re committed to nourishing your body with what you eat, be the first one to order when you go out to eat. Your decision will influence the rest of the people at your table. Maybe there are other people you’re dining with who were tempted to get a cheeseburger and fries. When they hear you place your order, they give it a second thought and instead order something that will nourish them and make them feel good for more than 10 minutes they’re eating it.

I typically look up the menu ahead of time if I’m going to a place I’ve never been. That way, I don’t even have to look at the menu when it comes and be tempted by something other than what I know what will make my body feel its best (and taste good, too!).

Give it a try the next time you go out to eat; be the anchor!

And, that’s a wrap! I hope those tips give you some ideas for how to better nourish your busy lifestyle no matter where you are.

Which one stuck with you the most? I love hearing from you!

6 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally

It’s that time of year again…cold and flu season.

It’s funny how the flu is the only illness that gets a whole season named after it, isn’t it?

What changes this time of year that increases our susceptibility to getting sick? Are colds and the flu inevitable, or can they be prevented?

As someone who used to come down with bronchitis, sore throats, and sinus congestion multiple times a year, I know how inconvenient and uncomfortable being sick is. Over the past few years, the changes I’ve made to my lifestyle and diet boosted my immune system, so I rarely got sick and felt better than ever. Even my husband, an elementary school phys ed teacher, who is exposed to countless sick kids every day, stays well, too.

I can usually get through this time of year without getting sick, but this winter has been a tough one for me. I got sick – sore throat, feeling totally run down, and a bit feverish. Not the full-blown flu, but I felt pretty crappy. I am the worst patient and hate being sick! But my body was sending me a message that I wasn’t taking care of it, so I got run down as a result.

Looking back, I can attribute my weakened immune system to NOT doing all of the things I’ve outlined below on a consistent basis. When I’m following these steps, I don’t get sick. My immune system is strong and fights for me.

So, what are the secrets of those who stay well?  What if we could naturally boost our immune system, so we could thrive through instead of simply survive this time of year? Can we do more to protect ourselves than solely relying on the flu shot and a bottle of hand sanitizer? Most of the medications we take just suppress symptoms but don’t get to the root of why we’re sick. They also interfere with our body’s natural healing process. And we all know washing our hands is certainly important, but…

We can do better.

Here are six tried and true steps you can take to supercharge your immune system and stay well in the winter.

1) Catch Some Zs

Lack of sleep (usually staying up to late) is the #1 trigger for me to get sick.

Though not the most glamorous piece of guidance, getting adequate, quality sleep is one of the best things we can do to boost our immune system. Our body uses sleep as a time to rest, repair and restore itself, so when we shortchange ourselves, we compromise our body’s ability to fight back. Sleep disturbances not only reduce our immune response but have also been linked to increased susceptibly to the common cold. One of the best things we can do if we start to feel like we’re coming down with something is to prioritize sleep and get a few extra hours of shut-eye.

Since millions of people have trouble sleeping, try one of these tips to better sleep:

  1. Check out The Sleep Doctor, Dr. Michael Breus’s book, The Power of When, to understand how to optimize your daily activities and sleep based on what he calls your “chronotype.” Click this link to take a quick quiz to identify YOUR chronotype.
  2. Set your phone to Night Shift to reduce exposure to stimulating blue light. If you have an iPhone, go into Settings — Display & Brightness — Night Shift. I have mine set to turn on at sunset and turn off at sunrise.
  3. Take a warm bubble bath or lavender epsom salt bath. Taking a bath before bed raises our core body temperature. Stepping out of the bath drops our temperature, which stimulates the release of sleep-promoting compounds. The magnesium in the epsom salts have a calming, anti-anxiety effect, too.
  4. Set your room temperature to 65F. You know how hard it is to sleep in a room that is too warm. A cooler temperature promotes better sleep.
  5. Use the Calm app to find a soothing meditation or relaxing adult bedtime story to prepare you for rest.

2) Begin with the Gut

They might look like Cheetos, but these puffy tubes are actually bacteria. Did you know that bacteria cells outnumber human cells 10:1? That’s right. We’re mostly bacteria.

Because 70-80% of our immune cells are located in and around our digestive system, one of the first places we should focus on to boost our immunity is our “gut.” The bacteria in our gut play a crucial role in the development and maintenance of our immune system and our Western diet, rich in processed packaged foods, and the overutilization of antibiotics has been linked to gut dysfunction and imbalances in our gut bacteria

Increasing our consumption of prebiotics and probiotics is one way we can boost our digestive health and, therefore, our overall health. Prebiotics are fermentable fibers that feed probiotic bacteria. Sources of prebiotic foods include buckwheat, chicory, burdock root, onions, garlic, asparagus, green tea, and blueberries, to name a few. We also want to increase consumption of traditional probiotic-rich foods like miso, natto, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir to promote a healthy gut.

Another option is to take a probiotic supplement. If you do, make sure you go with one that is high quality and proven effective. This review of the top probiotic supplements should help you.

3) Supplement with Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a powerful immune system regulator. Some experts even suggest that the collective reduction in sun strength and exposure (one of our primary sources of vitamin D) this time of year is what sets most of us up for reduced immunity. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to increased susceptibility to infection, colds and the flu, and many Americans are deficient in this immune-boosting nutrient. 

 The best form to take is vitamin D3. Most supplements are D2, so make sure you check and get D3. Recommendations vary, although the Vitamin D Council suggests 1,000 IUs (international units) for children and 5,000 IUs for adults daily. Vitacost is a great resource for supplements, including D3.

See your doctor to have your vitamin D level checked. It should be at least 30 ng/ml and closer to 50 ng/ml or more for optimal health and cancer prevention. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it should be consumed with some source of fat for optimal absorption. Check out the chart below from the Vitamin D council.

4) Eat Your G-BOMBS

Chronic stress depletes our body of nutrients, so upgrading our nutrition to support our body is especially critical during this time. All of us have heard about the importance of having a colorful diet, but this catchy acronym from Dr. Joel Fuhrman puts a new spin on that age-old advice.

G-BOMBS stands for Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds. I’ve written in more detail about them here. These nutrient-dense foods are packed with anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that work together to supercharge our immune system. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, Swiss chard and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower have antiviral and immune-boosting properties. 

Compounds from onions and other members of the allium vegetable family, like garlic, leeks, shallots and scallions thin mucus and have been found to have anti-asthmatic and antibiotic effects. Beans are rich in prebiotic fiber that helps feed the good bacteria in our digestive system. I eat beans almost every day. Believe it or not, mushrooms are also a significant immune booster and have strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. For more about the power of mushrooms, check out the TEDTalk below.

Whether you enjoy them in salads, smoothies, soups, stews, stocks, steamed or sautéed, eat your G-BOMBS to boost your immunity. Most recipes on this blog are packed full of G-BOMBS. Here are a few GBOMBS-rich soup recipes.

5) Chill Out

This time of year is characterized by heightened levels of stress from travel, holiday shopping, reduced exercise, increases in consumption of alcohol and sugar-laden foods, family get-togethers, time management, and, for many, holiday blues and depression. Do what you can to increase your resiliency to stressors because stress significantly suppresses our immune function.

If you want to thrive through the winter, make time for relaxation and fun, whether it takes the form of meditation, yoga, massage, a mani/pedi, dancing, taking a day off from work, a soothing epsom salt bath or calling a friend, going on a date, playing a game, or spending time in nature, even if it is chilly outside.

You can also just watch this video and search “laughing babies” on YouTube for instant stress relief!

6) Move Moderately

As the weather gets colder, we tend to spend more time indoors and less time moving. Moderate exercise may have a protective effect on the immune system, while excessive exercise and overtraining can depress our immune response.

I love this infographic from Precision Nutrition that gives all the details on exercising when you’re sick.

If you feel like you’re coming down with something, mild to moderate movement is the way to go. Try a dance class like tai chi, yoga, dancing, Nia,or go for a brisk walk, jog or indoor swim. My favorite place to take classes like this in Baltimore is Movement Lab.

So, there you have it! If you want to stay well this winter, thrive instead of survive, and feel the best you’ve ever felt, follow these tips to supercharge your immune system.

Is there anything I’m missing? Any tips you swear by that help you stay well? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

8 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Thanksgiving {+ Dozens of Recipes!}

I have so many positive memories of Thanksgiving from growing up – the giant glazed donuts from Woodlea Bakery we got every year for breakfast, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and helping my mom peel apples for her signature three-apple pie.

We never did anything too extravagant, and it was usually just the five of us – my parents, me, and my brother and sister – but Thanksgiving was a special day in our house. Now that I’ve grown to love cooking so much, it’s become my second favorite holiday after Christmas. This year, I’ll be making this gluten-free stuffing, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, roasted garlic cauliflower mash, and these pumpkin cheesecake.

I wanted to offer up some helpful tips and tricks to support you on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the websites that give tips for Thanksgiving just tell you to use healthier versions of your favorite staples, avoid going back for seconds, and watch your alcohol consumption. While I agree that all of those recommendations are useful to some extent, I’m here to offer something different, something more inviting and life-giving.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! 🙂

thanksgiving-cover

1) Be Present & Enjoy It

Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to come together with friends and family to celebrate the abundance and blessings in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the busy pace most of us keep throughout the year. For at least this one day, we can choose to pause, reflect, and be present. Enjoy the day. Savor the meal.

Part of being present means being aware of our body. If you’re going to eat something, OWN IT. Notice how it smells, tastes, and feels. Notice the signals your body sends you. Are you really hungry or do you just want something to do? Your body will let you know when it is no longer hungry. Pay attention to it. Take a break. Save the leftovers.

2) Eat Breakfast

When we know we’re going to be eating a lot later in the day, many of us will skip breakfast or eat too little early in the day to “save up” for the afternoon. Instead of skipping breakfast, which will lead to overeating later, have a nourishing breakfast to start your day. Try one of these 25 breakfast recipes, like this pumpkin spice oatmeal or this quick and easy black bean scramble.

3) Upgrade Your Recipes

All of us have family favorites that aren’t likely to be replaced anytime soon, but I invite you to give a new side dish recipe a try. I put together a collection of nearly 30 nourishing, delicious, and upgraded Thanksgiving recipes in this blog post. You won’t want to miss the maple-roasted Brussels sprouts, shredded Brussels sprouts salad, pumpkin spice dip, pecan-crusted sweet potato casserole, or pumpkin cheesecake.

brussels-salad-angle

Shredded Brussels sprouts salad with walnuts

4) Taste the Rainbow

Most Thanksgiving plates look pretty one-note with lots of browns and whites and a little bit of green or orange. Focus on filling your plate with as many colors as possible. This sweet potato casseroleshredded Brussels sprouts salad, and butternut squash and quinoa harvest salad will all add color to your plate!

The more colors you have, the more fiber is on your plate, the fuller you will feel, and the more nourished you will be. If you have kids, encourage them to count the colors on their plate and celebrate who gets the most.

5) Reallocate Your Plate to 50 / 25 / 25

That’s the ratio I recommend to “up” the nutrition of your plate. Half of the plate filled with vegetables (i.e., greens, salad, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, etc.) with some room for fruit, 25% protein (i.e., poultry, meat, seafood), and 25%  fiber-rich starch (i.e., sweet potatoes, squash, corn, grains). I’m a big advocate of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Healthy Eating Plate below, which is a visual representation of the 50/25/25 ratio.

harvard-healthy-plate

6) Slow Down

I hear a lot of people (me being one of them!) say things like, “But you don’t understand, it’s just that I LOVE food.” It’s given as a reason why we eat so much. Here’s something to consider from author, Geneen Roth, one of my favorite writers and truth tellers:

When you love something, you spend time with it.

Boom.

Man, she is always so spot on.

If you really, truly love food, spend time with it; take time to connect with your food. Pause before you eat and offer gratitude for the farmers who grew it or raised it, the money you have to purchase it, and the hands that prepared it. So often we forget about the process our food goes through to get from the farm to our fork. If you want to cut down on discomfort later that day, slow down and chew your food thoroughly before taking the next bite. 

7) Take a Digestive Enzyme

If all else fails and you realize you’re not going to follow any of the steps above, give your digestive system some support and take a digestive enzyme. This is kind of like the last-ditch effort. I almost feel like I’m advocating for overeating by putting this one in here, but I also think it could help a lot of people. When we overeat, we put a lot of extra work on our digestive system and don’t have enough enzymes to break down the massive amounts of food we’re eating. Some of my favorite digestive enzyme brands are Rainbow Light, DigestGold, and Garden of Life. You can find them on Vitacost.com.

8) Move Your Body

Moving your body helps stimulate digestion and regulate your blood sugar – something that is usually out of whack due to the amount of food most of us eat on Thanksgiving. 

Start a new family tradition focused on movement. Take a walk Thanksgiving morning for at least 30 minutes and try to do the same after dinner. Find a Turkey Trot 5k in your area on Active.com. Or, if you’re in Baltimore, JOIN ME at Movement Lab for a 90-minute dance jam on Thursday morning at 10:00!

Some of Baltimore's Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Dancing with some of Baltimore’s Nia community with a few amazing Movement Lab instructors

Do you have any helpful tips to share to make Thanksgiving more nourishing for your body, mind and soul? Feel free to comment below!

Simple Beauty-Boosting Salad with Pesto Dressing

One of my favorite parts of my job is spending time with employees and showing them how delicious and doable it is to eat well. I love the look of surprise on their faces and the comments they make when they try something they assumed wouldn’t taste good.

(Like this chocolate avocado mousse!)

For a recent cooking demonstration with a client in DC, we focused on beauty-boosting foods – food packed with colors, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other anti-aging nutrients and benefits.

We started with this Tropical Breeze Smoothie and then made the salad below for our main course, followed by my 5-minute chocolate avocado mousse topped with blackberries for dessert. Everyone had a great time and raved about the recipes.

To be totally honest, I came up with this salad the day before the class when I was in DC and eating my lunch from Chop’t, a salad place at the train station. I was admiring their seasonal Greenmarket Grain Bowl made with radishes, cucumbers, a mix of lettuces and a lemon basil vinaigrette.

Since the focus of the demo I was teaching the next day was about anti-aging, beauty-boosting foods, I knew that was the inspiration I needed to come up with this recipe. The good news is that you don’t HAVE to use these exact ingredients – just use a variety of vegetables that are in season and serve them with a yummy dressing, like the pesto one we made.

Here are the health benefits of some of the ingredients we used according to nutritionist, Kimberly Snyder, in her book, The Beauty Detox Foods.

salad-ingredients

Cucumbers: This is one of the top beauty-boosting foods we can eat. Cukes are packed with enzyme-charged water, B-vitamins and electrolytes to help us flush out the kidneys, reduce bloating and build radiant skin from within.

Radishes: Help cut and dissolve mucus in the digestive tract, so nutrients can flow freely throughout the body. They are in the mustard family and act as cleansers and detoxifiers in our body.

Scallions: Onions contain compounds that stimulate the production of the most important antioxidants the liver uses for detoxification (glutathione). They also contain quercetin, an antioxidant that counters the effects of premature aging.

Zucchini: Rich in antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory compound, vitamins and minerals, this summer squash is not only good for our bodies but it’s also fun to prepare when you use a spiralizer.

To make things a little more exciting than usual, we spiralized the zucchini and diced and sliced everything else. (This is the spiralizer I have). We topped it off with a pesto sauce that I usually serve with pasta or as a topping for cucumber slices as an appetizer. You can thin it out a bit by adding a little more oil or water and use it as a dressing. We just took it straight from the food processor and mixed it in.

The finishing touch was a sprinkling of Tomato Basil Chickpeatos (my FAVE roasted chickpeas). The bag was gone in a matter of minutes. I use them instead of croutons, and the rest of the crew is on board with that idea now, too, which is awesome to see!

salad-covr

Ingredients

1/2 pound mixed greens
2 zucchini, spiralized (or cut into thin strips)
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 cucumbers, chopped
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced
1 package of sprouted beans (we used lentil sprouts from MOMs)
1 cup Tomato Basil Chickpeatos
1/2 cup basil walnut pesto

Directions

  1. Mix all salad ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Add dressing and toss to combine.
  3. Top with Chickpeatos and enjoy!

3 Secrets to Heal Your Heart {…and Live to 100!}

Baltimore is home to some of the world’s thought leaders in health and medicine. One local organization at the forefront of innovation in healthcare and holistic health is the Institute for Integrative Health.

The Institute’s mission is to create a wellness and medical model to shift society’s focus from managing disease to promoting health. Their approach aligns with mine, as I strive to offer hope that we can be well and feel better, that health and vitality can become the new normal. It’s been a privilege to serve as one of their health educators and instructors over the past year or so.

For the Institute’s most recent healthy happy hour, Dr. Michael Miller, a preventive cardiologist, and his wife and podiatrist, Dr. Lisa Miller, facilitated a discussion about how to heal the heart. At the happy hour, I provided samples of my popular Love Your Heart trail mix before heading into the main room to listen to the Millers’ presentation. (Shout out to my favorite grocery store and cafe, MOMs Organic Market, for generously sponsoring the trail mix! If you haven’t been to their Naked Lunch cafe yet, it’s well worth going and is one of my favorite heart healthy lunch spots in town.)

trail mix

Aside from being an internationally recognized leader in the field of preventive cardiology, Dr. Miller has written the best-selling book, Heal Your Heart, which is the top-rated book on heart disease on Amazon out of over 1,000 books.

Included in the book are Dr. Miller’s Positive Emotions Prescription, over 100 recipes (that I can’t wait to try!), and practical tips to heal your heart and optimize your health and wellbeing. All proceeds from the book go to the American Heart Association.

Dr. Miller opened his talk with insights from centenarians – people who have lived to be over 100 – and identified their secrets to longevity. It’ll make you smile (and the simplicity of their advice may surprise you!):

During his talk, which served as a preview for a four-week coaching series he and his wife will be teaching in the fall, Dr. Miller pointed out the main risk factors for heart disease and what we can do to heal our heart and reduce the likelihood of succumbing to a disease that affects millions of Americans each year.

Most of us are aware of the main risk factors for heart disease and heart attack – smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Dr. Miller touched on those but spent the bulk of his time focusing on the impact of two lifestyle factors – stress and what we eat.

Our bodies were designed to respond to acute stressors (like being chased by a tiger), but most of us are in a state of constant stress these days – one that never seems to shut off. If I had to identify one aspect of my health that I want to transform, it would be how I handle stressful situations in my life and making more time for rest, play and relaxation.

Miller-Talk

One of the comments Dr. Miller made that stuck with me was that chronic stress is the same as cellular aging; stress advances the aging process. Even if we’re eating healthy food, exercising regularly and not smoking, this one factor – stress – can undo a lot of the helpful things we’re doing. That’s how powerful stress is.

Dr. Miller shared the story of a former cardiologist colleague of his who passed away from a heart attack in his mid-50s. The stress that accompanied a new, more demanding job on the other side of the world was too much for his heart to handle and ultimately took his life decades too soon. 

So, what can we do? What are some simple and effective things we can do to help heal our heart? Here are three tips Dr. Miller shared:

1) Add Mind-Body Exercises to Your Daily Routine

Research has shown us that these exercises down-regulate our body’s pro-inflammatory genes, which is exactly what we want to happen! Taking time for ourselves can be challenging, as we may feel selfish, but if we want to be well, self-care is non-negotiable. Here are some ideas for mind-heart exercises to try:

  1. Listen to music you enjoy.
  2. Meditate. Try the Headspace or Calm apps on your phone. They are great guides!
  3. Practice yoga. My favorite YouTube channel for yoga is Yoga with Adriene.

2) Watch a Funny Movie or TV Show

Dr. Miller shared some fascinating research about the blood vessel constriction that happened to a group of participants who watched the harrowing, stress-inducing opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. He compared it to the blood vessel dilation that happened when they watched comedies that made them laugh like Shallow Hal, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary. 

After just 15 minutes of laughing, volunteers experienced the same vascular benefit they’d experience from spending 15 to 30 minutes in the gym or from taking a daily statin medication to lower their cholesterol.

Not only that, but the blood vessel expansion lasted for up to 24 hours! Get a good laugh in in the morning, and the positive benefits could last the entire day.

We all agree there are still plenty of benefits to exercising, so keep up your daily movement routine, but don’t downplay the importance of a good laugh.

Need another excuse to watch The Office (my favorite!) or your other favorite funny TV show, movie, or YouTube videos? Permission granted! It’s good for your heart 🙂

3) Fuel Your Body with Heart-Healing Foods

In his book, Dr. Miller lists the top 50 foods that affect heart health and mood. To add an interactive component to the presentation, his wife, Dr. Lisa Miller, made a delicious raw blueberry cashew gelato topped with mashed peaches and a sesame cookie.

A few of the top 50 foods were cinnamon, ginger, peaches, vanilla, cashews, blueberries, maca powder, and sesame seeds. Here are some simple ways to incorporate these foods into your day:

  1. Add 1/2 tsp CINNAMON to your coffee each day. Cinnamon has been shown to lower triglyceride levels (that’s the fat in your blood). and inhibits a protein connect to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
  2. Add GINGER to smoothies, use it to make your own tea, and try these delicious ginger energy bites. It reduces plaque buildup and improves mental performance. It also promotes healthy digestion and settles nausea!
  3. Enjoy all of the delicious PEACHES that are in season. Peaches are high in antioxidants and other heart-healthy minerals. Mash them up in a mason jar, stir in some cinnamon, ginger and vanilla and add them to overnight oats or use them as a topping on ice cream, as we did that night.
  4. Enhance flavor (and your libido!) with VANILLA. It has been show to reduce inflammation and has high antioxidant activity. To avoid the alcohol content and bitterness of most liquid vanilla extracts, opt for the powdered version from Nielsen-Massey. We add it to smoothies, ice creams, and most of my energy bites!
  5. CASHEWS served as the base of the ice cream we made. If you don’t eat dairy (all recipe on this blog are dairy-free!), cashews add a creamy consistency to everything from cheesecakes and smoothies to soups, cheese sauces and dips. They are high in antioxidants and lower the risk or macular degeneration.
  6. In addition to being packed with antioxidant and blood sugar regulating components, BLUEBERRIES inhibit cortisol – the major stress hormone that runs rampant under chronic stress and adds weight to our bellies. Dr. Miller has a large handful of blueberries every day and swears by their eye health-promoting properties!
  7. MACA powder is derived from a Peruvian radish and has a malt-like taste that I absolutely love. I toss it into smoothies and my chocolate bark and find it pairs especially well with chocolate. It’s known for being a hormone-balancing food and has high antioxidant and blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose-lowering properties. This is the kind of maca powder I order on Amazon.
  8. SESAME SEEDS help regulate blood sugar and contain cholesterol-lowering compounds that protect our heart. Enjoy the seeds themselves and try tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds that we use to make salad dressings super creamy! You can find it in the international aisle of the grocery store. Trader Joe’s just started carrying it, too.

Dr. Lisa Miller’s raw cashew blueberry gelato combined several of those delicious ingredients, and I will share the recipe for it (and her sesame tahini cookies!) in my next post.

In the meantime, here are a few action steps to take if you want to keep learning more about this topic (and spend more time with the Millers and me):

  1. Buy Dr. Miller’s book, Heal Your Heart, on Amazon by clicking here.heal-your-heart-book
  2. If you want to be part of Dr. Millers’ Positivity Challenge Coaching Program in the fall, click here to learn more and register.
  3. Leading up to the Millers’ challenge, I will be teaching a two-part cooking class series about healing foods that you won’t want to miss! Click here to learn more and register.

10 Cauliflower-Powered Recipes {Vegan, Paleo}

I was teaching a workshop about Eating for Energy last week at a company, and one of the employees said she would love some creative ideas for how to use cauliflower, so I thought I’d dedicate an entire post to it.

This one is for you, Deb!

For starters, cauliflower is one of the most nutrient-packed yet under appreciated veggies out there. This less colorful cousin of our beloved broccoli happens to be one of the best foods we can eat, yet very few of us eat it!

mash

Cauliflower is one of Dr. Fuhrman’s GBOMBS, which are the most powerful, nutrient-packed, antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, disease-fighting foods on the planet! Most of what we eat on a daily basis are GBOMBS. To learn more about them, click here.

Here are just a few more reasons why you’ll want to add more of this cruciferous vegetable to your life:

  • Packed with vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants that helps our cells protect and repair themselves from damage, which is essential for optimizing our health
  • Contains sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth, AND improve blood pressure
  • Source of potent antiinflammatory nutrients. Chronic inflammation (caused by stress, what we eat, lack of movement, etc.) can significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases, so we want to do anything we can to reduce inflammation!
  • Supports our body’s detoxification (“clean up”) process, which is important because we are exposed to so many environmental and dietary toxins on a daily basis

To learn more about the awesomeness of cauliflower, click here or here.

Most of us are familiar with eating raw or steamed cauliflower, but there SO many other ways to use this versatile veggie that taste amazing!

Why not try something a little more exciting? 🙂

You can roast it, make a substitute for mashed potatoes out of it, turn it into a pizza crust, whip up a batch of cauli-fredo fettuccine sauce (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!), and use it to make soups creamy.

Check out the links below to 10 recipes that will make you fall in love with cauliflower.cauli collage.jpg

Roasted Buddha Bowl by oh she glows

Roasted Cauliflower in Lemon Tahini Sauce by Vegetarian Times

Easy Cauliflower Rice by All Recipes

Smoky Roasted Cauliflower by Tori AveySmoky-Roasted-Cauliflower-5-640x480

Fancy Pants Curried Cauliflower Steaks & Mash by RNKcauli2name

Caulifredo Sauce with Zoodles by RNKcaulifredo

Cauliflower Pizza Crust by The Detoxinista

Detoxinista Pizza Crust

Photo Credit: The Detoxinista. Used with permission.

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Mash by RNKcauli mash cover.jpg

Creamy Rosemary Sweet Potato Soup by RNKIMG_8875Soupbanner

Garlic & Red Pepper Cauliflower Hummus by Our Fifth House

garlic-red-pepper-cauliflower-hummus

Photo Credit: Our Fifth House. Used with permission

What are your favorite cauliflower recipes?

Feel free to leave a comment below with a link!

I love hearing from you 🙂

Curb Cravings with Crunchy Cacao Nibs {Plus 7 Recipes to Try!}

For the video version of this post, check out my Facebook page!

Either way, make sure you hit up the awesome recipes at the bottom 🙂

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Let’s pretend it’s 3:00 in the afternoon.

What’s something a lot of people crave right about now?

Nibs

Did you say CHOCOLATE?

The reason why might surprise you!

Many of us start to notice a dip in our energy levels and attention spans and the cumulative impact of stress throughout the day by mid-afternoon. Why not give our body a boost in energy, feel good chemicals and relaxation at the time we need it most? Why not enjoy some chocolate?

High quality dark chocolate that contains a high percentage of cacao (ka-KOW) is packed with magnesium.

Magnesium is known as the relaxation and anti-anxiety mineraland most of us are deficient in it. Not only that, but in times of stress and high demands, our body needs it more than ever. Sources of magnesium include spinach, oats, beans, pumpkin seeds, leafy greens, sesame seeds.

And…CHOCOLATE! 🙂

The key is to use QUALITY chocolate. I’ve written before here about why I became a qualitarian and what it means to be one. As the word suggests, I encourage you to focus on eating the highest quality food you can, especially when it comes to things like chocolate – the darker and purer, the better.

One of the purest forms of chocolate we can eat is cacao nibs.

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These bitter, crunchy chocolate bits are peeled and crumbled from dried, whole cacao beans. They are PACKED with nourishing, fueling goodness! When we hear about chocolate being good for us, these little guys take the prize. One ounce (about 1/4 cup) of cacao nibs contains:

  • 35% of the recommended daily value of relaxing magnesium
  • 6 GRAMS of fiber, which fills us up and keeps things moving in our digestive system. Only about 3% of the population eats the adequate minimum intake of fiber, even though it is one of the main disease fighters, blood sugar regulators, and energy stabilizers out there
  • 4 grams of satiating protein
  • Over HALF of the recommended daily value of copper and manganese, trace minerals that help us with formation of tissues (like bones and skin), energy production, and blood sugar balance.

You can find them in the natural food aisle of your grocery store, but I find the best deals at HomeGoods or online at Amazon or Vitacost. Wegmans, Whole Foods, and MOMs Organic Market carry them as well.

You can enjoy cacao nibs in trail mix, cookies, chocolate bark, brownie bites, sprinkled on top of smoothies or avocado pudding (recipe coming!), and as a topping for my chocolate walnut brownies.

Check out SEVEN of my favorite cacao nib recipes below!

Click the picture to get to the recipe.

PB Oat Bites CoverIMG_2208Mint Choco Chip Bday Ballssuper food trail mixcherry choco biteschococherrybanner2barkmain

Celeriac: Give This Ugly Vegetable a Chance

Avocado. Eggplant. Sauerkraut.

Most of us can think of certain foods that we don’t like or refused to try at one point. As a recovering picky eater, I was often afraid to try new foods, especially foods that looked or sounded “weird” to me.

Sauerkraut, eggplant and avocado were all foods that I wouldn’t even try at one point in my life but have learned to like, and, in the case of avocados, LOVE.

We’re told not to judge something without getting to know it, but, let’s be honest, most of us do. One vegetable that I had seen multiple times and was curious but afraid to try because of how strange it looked was this…

celeriac

Celeriac (say, sa-LAIR-ee-ac) also known as celery root.

It’s a relative of parsnips, carrots and parsley, and its taste resembles celery but is slightly sweeter, nuttier and milder. It’s a great source of filling fiber and also contains quite a bit of vitamin K, which supports heart and bone health.

This root vegetable isn’t always easy to find here in the U.S. (I get mine at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods), but if you can find it, it’s worth trying! It can be served the same way as a potato (mashed, roasted, sliced into fries, steamed, and as a component in soups and stews), so it’s really versatile.

Check out the video below to learn how easy it is to get the skin off of this less than beautiful root veggie and for a few more tips about how to prepare it!

Then, try one of the celeriac-centered recipes below:

Smashed Celeriac by Jamie Oliver

Celeriac Mash by Paleo Leap. This is the recipe I made, but I added about 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, used 4 cloves of garlic, and used veggie broth instead of chicken stock.

celeriac puree.jpg

Autumn Celeriac Puree by food52

Cauliflower Celeriac Soup by Cook Eat Paleo

Easy Celery Root Fries by The Spunky Coconut

Rosemary Roasted Celery Root & Carrots by Everyday Health

Roasted Root Vegetables with Tomatoes and Kale by Simply Recipes

roasted-root-vegetables-tomatoes-kale-vertical-a2-1200

Photo used with permission from SimplyRecipes

 

Which recipe do you want to try? Do you have another you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below!

 

 

GBOMBS Spaghetti Squash Saute + How-To Video {Gluten-Free, Paleo}

I’ve been on a squash kick lately! From roasted butternut squash to creamy kabocha squash soup and even squash “pasta,” winter squash is one of my favorite foods because it’s versatile, delicious and nourishing.

Today we’re going to take a look at a squash that many of us have heard of before but might have been too intimidated to try making ourselves – spaghetti squash!

As someone who loved twirling pasta on my fork as a kid, this is a food that is fun to eat and play with…and it has lots of body-boosting benefits, too!

IMG_7154

Winter squash is packed with antioxidants that support our body from the inside out – vitamin A for our skin and eyes, vitamin C for antioxidant protection, fiber for fullness, and folate, a B vitamin that supports our body’s production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters.

For more info about the awesomeness of spaghetti squash, click here.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that it tastes just like spaghetti (because it doesn’t…it’s a bit crunchier and a tad sweeter), BUT it does give you a similar experience and is basic enough to be paired with a variety of sauces – from pesto and marinara to pad Thai.

Check out my video below for the step-by-step instructions for how to prepare spaghetti squash and then buy some for yourself, so you can make one of the recipes below! It’s easier than you think 🙂 If you’re more of a picture person, check out this post I wrote for step-by-step pictures and directions.

I’ve included a recipe below for a winter veggie saute full of GBOMBS like shallots, garlic, dino kale, beans, berries and pumpkin seeds. Here are a few additional spaghetti squash recipes for you to try:

Spaghetti Squash Saute.jpg

Ingredients

1 large spaghetti squash
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 shallots, sliced
1 bunch dino kale (AKA lacinato or Tuscan kale), destemmed and chopped
1/4 cups water
1 15-oz can no-salt added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Slice a line down the length of the spaghetti squash, about a half-inch deep or make several slits round the squash to allow steam to release. It’s usually too hard to cut in half at this point unless you have a really good knife.
3. Put the squash in a 9 x 13 baking dish in the oven for 25 minutes, so it can soften enough to easily cut it in half. Remove squash from the oven and let it cool enough to handle it. Cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
5. Put the squash cut-side down in the baking dish and fill the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup water. Return squash to oven for about 30 minutes or until the squash easily pulls away from the shell. Let the squash cool and then scrape out the inside into strands with a fork.
6. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, sauté shallots in ghee (or oil) until fragrant, about 4-6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 30-60 seconds. Add spaghetti squash, dino kale and 1/4 cup water and toss until the kale is wilted but bright green. Add beans and toss until heated through then add cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Remove from heat and sprinkle with 1 1⁄2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats

When it comes to convenience, versatility and eating for energy, it doesn’t get much easier than overnight oats in a jar!

This is one of my go-to breakfast options and is perfect for busy mornings. Here are just a few more reasons I’m such a fan of overnight oats:

  • Change it up based on what you have on hand and what’s in season
  • Inexpensive ingredients that are pantry staples in our house
  • Eat them right out of the jar or heat them up on the stovetop, if you’d prefer something a little warmer
  • Make them a few days ahead of time for a ready-to-go breakfast
  • Involve your kids and let them get creative with toppings!

I’ve shared recipes for overnight oats before, including these Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats and these “Berry” Quick Overnight Oats, but today’s recipe is for Apple Cinnamon Overnight Oats!

Oats aerial

I used some of my favorite seasonal ingredients, including crisp apples, warming cinnamon and crunchy walnuts. I used apples two ways – applesauce as the base and chopped apples as the topping. The chia seeds are filling and soak up some of the almond milk, helping everything come together…without cooking it!

I love the combination of apples and cinnamon, especially during the colder months, so that’s what inspired this particular combination.

Apple OatsOats aerialI had some fun making a video “how-to” in case you’re a more visual person and want to hear more about the benefits of each ingredient.

The full recipe is listed below, so check it out and give it a try!

Ingredients

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons chia seeds
1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon (I LOVE cinnamon, so I used 1 tsp but start with 1/2 and add more to taste!)
Pinch ginger
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
1/3 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 apple, chopped
3-4 walnuts chopped
Optional toppings: 1 tablespoon nut butter, toasted coconut, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, 100% pure maple syrup, to taste

Directions

  1. Stir applesauce, chia seeds, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla, and sea salt in the bottom of a mason jar.
  2. Add the oats and almond milk and stir everything together to combine. Cover with a lid and store in your fridge for at least 30 minutes, ideally overnight.
  3. Remove from fridge and stir in toppings. Eat directly from the jar or warm on the stove. Enjoy!

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