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Category: Tips & Tricks (Page 1 of 7)

Top 10 Highlights of Natural Products Expo East 2018

Imagine if Whole Foods and just about every natural food store you know of had a trade show and you got to sample something from every vendor.

That’s pretty much what happens at the Natural Products Expo each year, and it’s like trick-or-treating for food nerds like me. Thousands of health practitioners, retailers, wholesalers, press, and bloggers come from all over North America and even beyond to get the scoop on the latest trends in the natural products industry. The show just so happens to be held in Baltimore, my hometown, so I have a 25 minute drive to get from my driveway to the expo.

It’s awesome.

As a blogger who writes about these products, I have the opportunity to attend each year, and it’s always one of the highlights of my fall. I share what I find with all of you and often sample and feature these products in the workshops and cooking demonstrations I teach at companies. As many of you know, I have a gluten-free, dairy-free focus in my food choices because of what I’ve found makes my body feel its best. Expo is a great place to go to find out what’s coming soon, so I can fill you in ASAP. I had fun hanging out with Elyza Dolby and Colleen Howell. Expo is even better when you go with friends!

Each year, I notice a few trends that tend to characterize the expo, and I bring them back to you to make your life easier, better and more delicious. I focus on dairy-free and gluten-free options as well as upgrades to on the go meal and snack foods and some supplements and herbal remedies worth considering!

*Friends, I want to offer this one caveat before I share my updates and trends with you. Regardless of what the trends are, I still focus my eating around my whole foods – mostly plant-based, full of colors, packed with nourishing fats, protein and fiber. To learn more about what matters most to me and what my personal food philosophy is, I’ve got you covered here.*

**If you want to know where these products are sold near you, go to the product’s website and look for the “Store Locator” or “Find Me Near You” page on their site and search by zip code.

RNK’s Top Expo East Trends & Finds

On-the-go nourishment is getting easier and more delicious.

I’ve written before about my top tips for eating healthy on the go, and I’m excited to see so many companies finding ways to prioritize both food quality and convenience. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner on the go, it’s easier than ever to eat well, even when you’re busy.

Some of my favorite newbies to the scene are Purely Elizabeth oatmeal cups (less than 5 grams of sugar per container, which is wayyyy less than most on the go oats), Sprout Living drinkable oats (try the spice or mocha flavors!)Wildscape frozen meals (which are made with totally real food ingredients – they have one gluten-free and one vegan option), Grainful meals, and Path of Life frozen sides.

I was also excited to see the team from Swapples, one of our on-the-go breakfast staples, at Expo for the first time! We love their grain-free frozen waffles. They also won Best of Show at Expo East by Veg World Magazine! Congrats, Rebecca and team! 🙂

New snack bars are aiming for lower sugar.

I aim for a single digit sugar content in the bars that I buy, and the new ones coming to market fit the bill (or are like 1 gram off!). I’ve written previously about my top real food snack bars in this post, including what I look for in a bar (protein + fiber + low sugar), but I’ll need to update it with some new options from this year. Because I travel so much, I don’t always have the opportunity for a full sit-down meal, so sometimes snacking on a bar is my best option. (Hummus and veggies and trail mixes definitely work, too!) 

This year’s bar standouts included Purely Elizabeth‘s granola bars (if you like her granola, you’ll love the bars!), Primal Kitchen‘s collagen bars, This Bar Saves Lives (eat for a cause!), evohemp cookie and brownie bars, and Enjoy Life’s allergen-free breakfast bars. For meat eaters, my hubby’s favorites for protein-rich bars that are also low in sugar are Country Archer Jerky Co. (Herb Citrus Turkey bar and Sweet BBQ Pork are his top two) and EPIC bars.

Mushrooms are cool and are being reinvented.

Whether it was in a zesty thai mushroom jerky or immune-boosting tinctures, teas, and hot chocolate mixes, mushrooms are in, and for good reason. I’ve written about the anti-cancer, immune-supportive properties of mushrooms in this GBOMBS post.

A few of my favorite mushroom-centric products are featured below. A few brands I love are Host Defense teas and immune-boosting sprays and drops (expect to see these in upcoming immunity workshops!), Four Sigmatic chocolate milk and latte mixes, Purely Elizabeth’s new grain-free granola bars, and Pan’s mushroom jerky, to name a few.

Beans, beans, good for your heart!

Whether it was a chickpea patty, hummus, chocolate-covered roasted chickpea or crunchy sriracha fava beans, beans showed up in droves this year. Beans have always been popular in the natural food community because of their high fiber and protein content, but it’s been fun to watch how the food industry has made them cool.

Here are some of my favorite bean-based products from Cedar’s Za’atar hummus, Enlightened roasted fava beans (soon to be rebranded as “Bada Bean”), Hempe chickpea tempeh patties, and Hodo ready-to-eat Moroccan-spiced tofu bites (good enough to convert any tofu hater).

Dairy-free cheeses have come a loooong way.

When I found out that dairy was a trigger for a range of health issues for me – from bloating and reflux to bronchitis and ear infections – I removed it from my diet and felt better within weeks. Since then, I’ve tried a variety of options for dairy-free yogurts, cheeses, chocolate, milks, ice cream, and other dairy-based products and have found some options that I really enjoy. For now, I’m just going to focus on the cheeses because, let’s be honest, they’re the hardest thing to change when going dairy-free.

A few cheese brands and products I love are Parmela Creamery (their nacho nutcheese is amaaaazing), Miyokos‘ Cheers to Cheddah (Wispride spreadable cheese fans, anyone?), and Treeline Cheese’s new Maple Walnut flavor coming out this fall.

Dairy-free milks and creamers are leveling up.

Next to cheese, I find that milk and coffee creamers are one of the things people really struggle to go without when eliminating dairy. Fortunately, there are so many options that will not make you feel the least bit deprived!

A few of my favorites are Oatly oat-based milk, Milkadamia macadamia nut-based milks and creamers, nutpods dairy-free coffee and tea creamers and Know Brainer‘s ketogenic (to learn more about keto, read this) creamers. Forager Project is rebranding their products with a green label, so be on the lookout for their yogurts and nut milks. Their full fat yogurts are also delicious!

Gut-friendly foods are everywhere.

From sauerkrauts and kombucha to apple cider vinegar drinks, gut-friendly foods continue to surge, which has been a trend for the past few years. More and more people are focusing on improving digestive health, and with good reason. I’ve written previously about my top ten tips for optimizing gut health in this blog post.

From Buchi’s Kombucha‘s new Kefir Soda (less sugar than kombucha and a pleasant fizz!) and Cleveland Kraut‘s  single-serve kraut packets, to Good Belly probiotic shots, and Bonafide Provision and Brodo‘s restorative broths.

My favorite local purveyor of fermented foods is still Hex Ferments in Baltimore, but if you’re outside of this area, try one of the brands above.

Purity of ingredients is paramount.

When it comes to packaged foods, it’s often easier to sacrifice purity of ingredients in order to optimize flavor or preservation. That’s why I’m excited to see so many companies committed to ingredient quality and simplicity. The shorter the ingredient list and the more easily I’m able to pronounce the ingredients, the more likely I am to buy it.

A few of my favorite finds in this category were Primal Kitchen’s ketchup, Jilz gluten-free crackers (holy cow, these were amazing and would be delicious with the hummus or cheeses mentioned above), Cappello’s gluten-free sweet potato gnocchi (omg), and Wildscape and Grainful frozen meals.

Chocolate is getting even better.

You know that shellac that you usually see on chocolate-coated candies? You won’t find it on Hu Kitchen’s new chocolate-dipped cashews and goji berry bites. These were two of my favorite new products at the expo this year. The tartness of the goldenberries combined with the richness and bite of dark chocolate were a killer combo. They should be in stores by Q1 2019.

Some of my favorite chocolate treats were Eating Evolved chocolates, Theo turmeric spice chocolate bar, Hu chocolate-covered hunks, and Better Bites chocolate covered cookie dough bites (these are definitely a special treat!). For a full round-up of my favorite dairy-free chocolate bars, check out this post.

Monk fruit is the new stevia.

Artificial sweeteners often get a lot of flack because of their negative side effects. One of the benefits of the evolving natural products industry is that we are finding better options to things like equal and sweet and low. Monk fruit as a natural, zero-calorie sweetener with a glycemic index of 0, so it’s suitable for diabetics. It’s about 300 times sweeter than sugar. To learn more about monk fruit and other natural sweeteners that I recommend, read this post.

You can find monk fruit in evohemp and Primal Kitchen’s bars, Lakanto’s chocolate and a variety of other products. There were too many to name, but you will start noticing this sweetener shift in 2019!

Okay….and ONE MORE bonus one because I can’t help myself…

Supplements can be fun and not feel like a chore.

With gummies, sprays, and lozenge-style options, taking supplements doesn’t have to mean pill boxes full of tough-to-swallow horse pills. When I discovered I was clinically malnourished, I had to start supplementing to replenish what was lost. My body wasn’t able to properly break down nutrients because I’d been taking stomach acid blockers for a decade, so I turned to easy to digest supplements from the brand Nutrametrix.

While that may not be everyone’s situation, there are still some great options if you are looking for ways to make taking supplements more palatable. For those of you who are vegan, there is a high likelihood you will need to supplement with B-vitamins, especially B-12, so talk to your doctor about that. Many people are supplementing with turmeric these days because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Both B-12 and turmeric are now available in a fun and tasty gummy from Mega Food. Make sure your turmeric is combined with black pepper on the supplement label to optimize absorption.

If you are looking to boost your immune system, Beekeeper’s Naturals propolis throat spray is one of the top sellers on Amazon and a product I have used myself. They just introduced a NEW version for kids, so check them out on Amazon

Here are a few other trends I spotted that I haven’t found to be relevant to me but were really popular at expo, so I wanted to share them with you:

  • CBD oil is in everything. From water and honey to gummies and supplements, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant that is known to calm the nervous system, among other things. It showed up at every turn at this year’s expo and is legal to consume in Maryland and in other states. To learn more about CBD oil’s benefits and uses, click here.
  • Natural sleep aids are on the rise. It’s no secret that many of us struggle to get a good night’s sleep, which is why natural sleep aids are popping up everywhere from Som Sleep drinks to supplements.

If you’re not already hanging out with me over on Instagram, check out my page here. I share all of the latest and greatest food finds, recipes, blog posts and inspiration on that platform, and I’d love to connect with you!

7 Healthy Dining Spots in Lake Placid, New York (And Why You Should Go There on Vacation!)

Since I was a little girl, my family has spent our summer vacation in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York.

My mom’s family is from the area, and she spent summers as a kid in Keene at her parents’ farmhouse, working at The Land of Make Believe as a teenager. My dad fell in love with her and the area over 40 years ago when they started dating. My parents love Upstate New York so much that, after decades of renting other people’s cabins, they bought their own place in Wilmington, just outside the resort village of Lake Placid. It’s been in our family for over 15 years and will remain for years to come.

Each summer, Bill and I return to our grounding place, to small towns where time stands still, and to the breathtaking beauty of the Adirondacks. We go to be near the mountains, lakes, streams, cleansing air, and for peacefulness that being in nature brings.

If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it as a travel destination, especially if you like being outdoors. The days are typically mild, and the summer nights are often so chilly that you need to bundle up and wear a sweatshirt or jacket.

Our favorite thing to do while we are up there is hike one of the hundreds of peaks in the region. If you’re looking for options, I suggest checking out this site, which sorts hikes by distance and difficulty. Bill and I try to climb one of the 46 High Peaks each year, but we also love to do shorter climbs, including Ampersand, Round Mountain, and Hurricane. With all of the lakes in the area, we also love to canoe, paddle board, or make friends with people who have boats 🙂 It’s also a great spot for fishing.

My family of triathletes swims, bikes and runs throughout their time there. I love to go for a run around Mirror Lake or near my parents’ house and take in the mountain views. One of the Ironman triathlons (140.6 miles – 2.4 mile-swim, 112 mile-bike, 26.2 mile run) takes place in Lake Placid each July and draws in thousands of athletes and their friends and family. If you’ve never witnessed an Ironman race, I highly recommend attending one. We volunteer each year at one of the bike aid stations and cheer in the runners at the finish line in the evening. It’s an incredible testament to the power of the human spirit and a feat of the body and mind. My dad has finished the Lake Placid Ironman six times; my sister, Jane, three times; and my husband, Bill, once. To learn more about the race, click here.

When Bill and I are on vacation, one of the things we love to do is find delicious and nourishing places to eat. With my dairy-free, gluten-free limitation, I have to be selective about where to dine out, but I have become particularly skilled at discerning where to go. I don’t think that being away from home means that we have to sacrifice nourishing ourselves. My goal is to find places that serve delicious and nourishing food. It’s totally possible.

Here is my list of seven spots to dine in Lake Placid, New York!

Green Goddess Natural Foods

Locations: 2051 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY; 2419 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY
Contact: 518-523-4676, www.GreenGoddessFoods.com
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snack

This is my #1 spot because it’s a cafe and a grocery store. If you consider yourself to be a healthy foodie, then you have to know about this place. Originally located on Saranac Avenue on the way out of Lake Placid, Green Goddess Natural Foods has expanded and recently opened a second location on Main Street.

At both locations, you can build your own smoothie, smoothie bowl, grain bowl, breakfast bowl, and salad. You can also get homemade, cold-pressed juices there, too. The markets have hundreds of gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo, and vegan options including products, soups, baked goods, grab-and-go deli sandwiches and dips, snacks, and even supplements.

I’m a fan of the make-your-own-salad option, and if you get one, I highly recommend including the curried cashews and green goddess tahini dressing (seriously awesome). My husband is a fan of their sandwiches loaded with local ingredients.

For a look at the Green Goddess and Scape Cafe menus, click here, and for updates to daily specials, follow them on Instagram.

The Good Bite Kitchen

Location: 2501 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY
Contact: 518-637-2860, www.TheGoodBiteKitchen.com
Meals: Lunch, Snack

It’s easy to pass right by this little gem, but we were stoked to discover it a few years ago. The Good Bite Kitchen is an “inventive vegetarian” cafe with lots of  plant-powered, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and paleo options. They change out the selection on their chalkboard menu on a daily basis and have everything from soups, salads, sandwiches, and smoothies to grain bowls, zucchini noodle bowls, and sweet treats.

Seating is extremely limited, so depending on what time of day you’re there, you might want to get your order to go and sit by the water to eat your meal. A few of the my favorite meals that I’ve gotten there are the Mung Bean and Zoodle (zucchini noodle) bowl served with a vegan ranch dressing and topped with pumpkin seeds. I’ve also tried a zoodle bowl made with toasted cashews and chickpeas. They always have some combination of a veggie noodle and/or rice bowl loaded with lots of other veggies and something crunchy.

Bill loves the GBK Tomato, which can be prepared as a sandwich or salad, and includes heirloom tomato, balsamic hummus, basil vinaigrette, pickled onions, feta and greens. Follow them on Instagram to keep track of daily specials.

Note: As of this blog post publication, they are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11a-5p.

Salt of the Earth Bistro

Location: 5956 Sentinel Road, Lake Placid, NY
Contact: 518-523-5956, www.SaltoftheEarthBistro.com
Meals: Dinner

Most of the time, Lake Placid seems like the town that time forgot. Very little changes from year to year, so it’s obvious when a new store or restaurant comes to town. As we were searching on yelp (my go to app for finding dining options), we stumbled upon this farm to table spot. After checking out the menu and seeing icons designating gluten-free and vegan options, I knew we’d found a winner! We went with my parents and everyone loved their meal and the appetizers. There aren’t many high quality dinner spots in Lake Placid, but this is definitely one of them.

We started with an appetizer of onion fritters breaded in chickpea and cauliflower flour and served with an addictive tamarind dipping sauce. Everyone at the table raved about them and the goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers drizzled with honey and chopped hazelnuts, topped with microgreens. I couldn’t eat the cheese but did manage to snag a bite of a pepper with some honey and hazeluts, and it was delicious. I had eyed up their curried chickpea dish served with cauliflower, red peppers, carrots, plump raisins, and chickpeas atop a bed of turmeric rice. It had a bit of a kick to it, but the flavors were on point. My mom had the special, which included perfectly seared sea scallops on a bed of black quinoa and sautéed spinach served with a beet yogurt sauce.

If you’re looking for a spot for nice night out in Lake Placid or for a place to go for a celebration, I highly recommend Salt of the Earth Bistro.

Big Slide Brewery & Public House

Location: 5686 Cascade Road, Lake Placid, NY
Contact: 518-523-7844, www.BigSlideBrewery.com
Meals: Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert, Drinks

Another newer addition to the Lake Placid dining scene, Big Slide Brewery received about 4.5 out of 5 stars on yelp, which caught my attention. It’s a great spot for a group and you could easily spend an afternoon there. Their farm-to-table menu that sources ingredients locally had plenty of options for gluten-free, dairy-free and anyone without restrictions, too. Bill and I had a great meal there. I’m not much of a drinker, but their mule served with cranberry maple ginger beer was calling my name, so I got that to start, and it was definitely the right call.

To start, I loved the humor they put into their menu titles. With names like The 40 Year Old Vegan (a vegan pizza), The Yawner (a traditional house salad), What a Fun-gi (mushroom pizza), and Trout It Out (my second choice for an entree!), just reading the menu put me in a good mood. I have an appreciation for puns.

For dinner, I opted for the Thai Cobb Salad (another funny play on words, right?), and Bill had the pork chop entree. My salad was made with julienned carrot, cabbage and jicama; spicy micro greens; tomato; avocado; applewood smoked bacon; peanuts; and a 7-minute egg and was topped with a lime and smoked chili vinaigrette. I wasn’t starving, but if I wanted to amp it up a bit more, I could have added grille chicken. It hit the spot, and I would highly recommend it! 

Bill’s entree was a bone-in pork loin chop served with caramelized onion, blueberry and bacon salsa, roasted carrot and spinach lentils and finished with an apple bourbon jus. I don’t think anything else needs to be said other than it was awesome. Like, ridiculously awesome and packed with flavor. We can’t wait to go back to Big Slide Brewery for another mouthwatering meal!

Caffe Rustica

Location: 1936 Saranac Avenue, Lake Placid, NY
Contact: 518-523-7511, www.CaffeRustica.com
Meals: Dinner, Dessert; Closed on Sundays

This place is easy to miss if you’re not aware of it because it is off the main drag and in a shopping center with a Price Chopper grocery store. We first went to Caffe Rustica (yup, it’s spelled differently) a few years ago with family friends who live in the area, and it has become one of our annual dinner destinations since.

I started with a house salad made of mixed greens, poached pears, charred onions, walnuts, and avocado (they let me sub that for cheese) topped with a maple balsamic dressing. What a perfect way to start a meal. I had the fish special, which was a meaty white fish served with a homemade basil marinara sauce and served on top of sautéed broccolini. It was a light meal, great for the hot summer day we were there. I’ve had the salmon before, too, and it is often served with root vegetables and quinoa, so I’d recommend that, too.

Photo credit: Olivia Serafini, Whole Cal, So Cal. Used with permission

After dinner, if you’re looking for something to do, play a round of mini golf at Pirate’s Cove. It’s a fun course. The last time we were there, Bill got four holes in one!

Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

Location: 813 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, NY
Contact: 518-523- 3813, www.UbuAle.com
Meals: Lunch, Dinner, Drinks

If you want to hit up the beach at Mirror Lake and then walk to lunch or dinner or to grab drinks with friends and family, then the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery is your spot. We went there with a group of almost 20 people last summer after my sister, Jane, did her third Ironman triathlon, so this is a great spot for groups.

Once again, this is another spot that accommodates gluten-free, plant-based diners. All items are prepared in the same kitchen as gluten-containing foods, but they label their menu with a GF symbol to indicate which items are made with gluten-free ingredients. I’ve gotten the hummus starter (lots of crunchy veggies for dipping!) and superfood salad (kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and mixed greens galore) with salmon on top. My mom loved the salmon bowl with maple and brown sugar glazed salmon served with cilantro lime rice, radishes, cucumbers, scallions and toasted sesame seeds. If you’re gluten-free, ask for a gluten-free sauce / glaze option, as it appears that something in that dish is not gluten-free.

If you’re in the mood for a pizza, burger or sandwich, good news! LP Pub & Brewery offers gluten-free pizza crust and burger buns.

Lisa G’s

Location: 6125 Sentinel Road, Lake Placid, NY
Contact: 518-523-2093, www.LisaGs.com
Meals: Lunch, Dinner, Drinks

This is a popular neighborhood restaurant and bar and tends to get busy around dinner time, especially on weekends. Lisa G’s has something for everyone a menu that labels menu items as “gluten-free” or “vegan,” which is super helpful for someone like me.

Here are a few of the gluten-free options: Lentil Salad with mixed greens, green lentils, carrots, scallions, roasted red peppers, and green olives tossed in a thyme vinaigrette and topped with walnuts and feta. I’d hold the feta and ask for avocado instead, which most restaurants are willing to accommodate. Lisa G’s has a few side dish options that I’d recommend mixing and matching with a protein to build a nourishing, fueling meal, including roasted veggies, sautéed kale, rice pilaf and rice and beans. For entrees, you could try the Sweet Potato Chili and Salmon dishes (ask for a different sauce on the salmon if dairy-free), as both are gluten-free (hold the corn bread for the chili).

If you don’t have any dietary restrictions, you have a broader menu to choose from, including salads, apps, wings, sandwiches, tacos, burritos, and land and see entrees.

And there you have it! Those are my top seven, tried and true dining spots in Lake Placid. Looking for more options? Here are four other spots to check out in town:

  1. The Cottage: 77 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, NY. The view from the outdoor patio of The Cottage is beautiful, sitting right on Mirror Lake. I’m a fan of their House Salad served with artisanal greens, heirloom cherry tomatoes, roasted butternut squash, sweet and spicy almonds and served with their maple balsamic dressing.
  2. Base Camp Cafe: 2488 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY. Breakfast the other day was a toss up between this place and The Breakfast Club. We didn’t make the right choice (the food and vibe were not so awesome at the Breakfast Club) and wish we’d gone to Base Camp instead. They serve old fashioned oatmeal and have build-your-own omelette or scramble options served up with home fries. They also have all day breakfast bagels that can be made with gluten-free bread instead. Base Camp also serves hot and cold sandwiches and variety of drink options, including a wide selection of specialty lattes.
  3. Top of the Park: 2407 Main Street, Second Floor, Lake Placid, NY. Tapas / small plates restaurant with creative but limited menu and a few vegan and gluten-free options. We haven’t been yet, but this place comes highly recommended by the staff at Green Goddess Natural Foods for the quality of their food and willingness to accommodate different dining preferences.
  4. Liquids & Solids: 6115 Sentinel Road, Lake Placid, NY. If you consider yourself to be a bit of an adventurous eater, check out this spot. Their menu is heavy on animal products and not an ideal spot for plant-based diners. They’re also known for their extensive and ecclectic drink menu.

Brain Food: 7 Ways to Fuel a Healthy Mind

We’re asking a lot of our brain these days.

The brain only weighs about three pounds and its texture is like that of firm jelly (Mmm…), yet it’s our most powerful organ, directing everything we do on a daily basis without our conscious awareness. Most of us are constantly on the go, stimulated by multiple inputs and distractions, demanding our brain to constantly think, learn, process, concentrate, focus, remember, feel, and problem solve, among other things. It’s like our brains are always on, given little to no downtime to relax, recharge, and rest. It’s a struggle for me, too.  I know I don’t give my brain the rest it needs, but I do try my best to give it premium fuel to help it operate effectively.

Our brains are nourished by a vast network of blood vessels, and when we are thinking hard and demanding a lot of ourselves cognitively, our brain may use up to about 50% of the oxygen and fuel in those blood vessels. That’s a key reason we want to nourish our brain with the highest quality fuel available to us, so we can continue to function at a high level.

Many of us have personal experience or exposure to different conditions affecting the brain, including everything from anxiety and depression to brain fog, trouble concentrating, memory loss, and dementia. Over 20 years ago, my great-grandmother passed away from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. I remember going to visit her in the hospital as a young girl and wondering what was happening. As someone who has always prided myself on my intellectual abilities and capacity, I felt confused and a bit frightened as I watched her brain power diminish over time. It’s a fear many of us have – that we will one day not know where we are or who our loved ones are or that we will lose the ability to recall a lifetime of memories and experiences.

It’s tempting to hear all of that and assume that it’s inevitable we will succumb to some health condition that will impair our brain, but I’ve got good news!

We can influence our brain health by changing what we eat and upgrading our diets to include brain-boosting foods. If you are looking to enhance your memory, improve your focus, get a boost in mental energy, sleep better, concentrate better, and think more clearly, keep reading. Physical activity and mindfulness / meditative practices are both important for optimal brain functioning, but for today, we’re going to focus primarily on the role of food and nutrition in optimizing our brain function.

Our brain is connected to the rest of our body by nerves and blood vessels, so anything we do to support brain health will enhance our overall health. You don’t have to remember a different diet for every body system because everything is connected 🙂

The Best Diet for Brain Health

Each year, U.S. News and World Report publishes its ranking of the best diets. I’m generally not a fan of diets because of their tendency to be restrictive and deprivation-oriented, but if you just think of a diet as a way of eating, you can use the information they publish as a helpful guide. I like to think of what I’m about to share as a way to upgrade your eating habits to enhance your brain power.

From a list of 40 different diet, the MIND Diet ranks among the top five. The MIND Diet is a hybrid of the DASH Diet, which is aimed as preventing or reducing the risk of high blood pressure, and the Mediterranean Diet, which draws on the dietary practices of people living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea.

Photo by Michal Sevcik

Research published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia suggests that people who follow the MIND Diet have substantially slower cognitive decline with age than those who eat the Standard American Diet (SAD).

The top 10 foods recommended by the MIND Diet are green leafy vegetables, other vegetables (especially non-starchy ones like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), nuts, berries, beans, whole grains (think oats, quinoa and brown rice), fish, poultry, olive oil and some red wine (optional – if you’re not already consuming, starting won’t necessarily benefit you, but if you already drink red wine, a 5-ounce glass daily is recommended).

If you’re looking to avoid foods that have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline, reduce intake of butter and margarine to about 1 tablespoon daily (especially margarine because of its trans fats) and limit cheese consumption to less than once per week (Hey, I didn’t do the research; I’m just sharing it!) because of its high saturated fat content. Keep red meat at no more than three services a week and limit fried food consumption to less than once a week because of its pro-inflammatory nature and limit processed sweets to no more than four times a week.

The goal isn’t perfection – just add in a few more servings of the brain-boosting foods as often as you can. Fortunately, even moderate adherence to the MIND Diet has been linked to slower rates of cognitive decline. To learn more about the MIND Diet, click here.

Now, let’s take a look at a few others ways to fuel and boost our brain health!

7 Ways to Fuel a Healthy Mind

1) Hydrate

We know that our body needs water to function, and for optimal brain functioning, making sure we are properly hydrated is critical. Even a small amount of dehydration can significantly impact our body.

A 1-2% loss of fluid levels in the brain has been linked to a wide range of mental impairments, including attention deficit, slower processing, and poorer short-term memory retention. Dr. Daniel Amen, one of the international experts and leaders in brain health, advocates for consuming half your body weight in water. If you weigh 140 pounds, that would mean 70 ounces of water each day. It’s not an exact science but more of a guidelines. What you need will vary based on your physical activity level, other foods you’re consuming with high water content, age, caffeine intake (it’s a diuretic and causes you to lose fluid) and medications you are taking that may interfere with hydration.

Water is the recommended drink of choice, and you can infuse it with fruits, vegetables and herbs to keep it exciting, but you can also consume things like herbal teas and throw in something like Spindrift, a sparkling water made without any artificial ingredients or “natural flavors” that is super low in sugar (about 1 gram per can).

2) Eat Probiotic and Prebiotic-Rich Foods

Your gut is one of the most important organs for the health of your brain.

Dr. Daniel Amen

I’ve written on my blog before about the top steps to optimize gut health, but most of us don’t think about how closely connected gut health and brain health are. The vagus nerve is one of 12 cranial nerves and is part of our involuntary nervous system that commands unconscious body procedures, like controlling digestion. Not only that, but our “gut” or digestive system is often referred to as our second brain because of how important it is in regulating things like mood and energy.

The foods we eat can either heal our digestive system or harm it, so being intentional about upgrading our diet by adding in gut-supportive foods is important. The bacteria in our gut are responsible for the production of neurotransmitters or brain messengers involved in mood, learning, and memory.

Believe it or not, gut bacteria produce about 95% of our body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire and function.

If our digestive system isn’t getting the fuel it needs from bacteria-rich, fermented foods, it doesn’t produce the amounts of serotonin and dopamine that we need to feel and function at our best.

Some of my favorite probiotic-rich foods to consume are sauerkraut (my fave brands are Hex Ferments (#1) Farmhouse Culture, Jacob’s Raw and Wildbrine. I chop up sauerkraut and put it in all of my salads. You do NOT want your sauerkraut to be cooked. The beneficial living bacteria are only present in the raw forms. You can also try pickles (made without sugar – check the label), kimchi (a spicy Korean cabbage), kombucha (watch the sugar and don’t drink if you are prone to candida or other sugar imbalance issues), miso, tempeh, and tofu. Fermented foods may be an acquired taste, but think of them as medicine for your body and brain!

3) Focus on Folate

Folate is a naturally occurring form of Vitamin B9. Its Latin roots mean “leaf”, so it’s no surprise that leafy green vegetables are among the best sources of folate.

Folate is the naturally occurring form of the vitamin, while folic acid is the synthetic form found in fortified foods and in most supplements. B-vitamins like folate help support adrenal function and calm and maintain a healthy nervous system. Folate indirectly facilitates the production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, three neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation.

Here are some top source of folate, as listed on one of my favorite resources for nutrition information – The World’s Healthiest Foods:

4) Eat from the Rainbow

If we know anything about nutrition, it’s that eating a diet rich in colorful, whole foods, especially plants, is one of the most important features of a nourishing diet.

Flavonoids are plant-based compounds with a wide range of health benefits that are present in varying levels in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. They have strong anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and even anti-viral benefits. I like this handy chart from Dr. Mercola that highlights some of the top sources of flavonoids.

Some of these compounds help repair defective DNA, which is important because defective DNA can lead to cancer, chronic diseases, and aging-related health conditions. They are rich in antioxidants, which helps the body counter the oxidative effects of stress and a processed food diet. Think of oxidation as rusting. When metal is in contact with oxygen and water, it rusts, and too much oxidation inside our cells can cause premature aging and “rusting” from the inside out. In order to repair that damage internally, we want to consume large amounts of ANTI-oxidant-rich foods.

RECIPES: Take a look at some of Rebecca Katz’s top brain-boosting recipes from The Healthy Mind Cookbook. Also, for some of the Brain Warrior Way recipes, check out Tana Amen’s site here.

Veggies at the San Diego Farmer’s Market, including lots of kale!

5) Power Up with Protein

Most Americans are not protein deficient, despite what all of the current food advertising might lead you to believe. However, many of us do not consume the highest quality sources of protein or the amounts that are ideal for optimal brain health. If we are too focused on protein consumption, we will often neglect to fill enough of our plate with the antioxidant-rich foods we just learned about above.

The building blocks of proteins are called amino acids, and they make up our neurotransmitters, enzymes, muscles, tissues, and hormones. We need to consume quality sources of protein in order to give our body the raw materials it needs to function at its best.

Dr. Amen suggests a ratio of 70% plant-based foods and 30% high quality protein as a way to structure our plates. Some of his top recommended protein sources include beans, meat (wild caught fish, pastured poultry and grass-fed beef), eggs, nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin and sesame) and high-protein vegetables like broccoli and spinach.

IMPORTANT BRAIN HEALTH NOTE ABOUT VITAMIN B-12: Animal-based proteins are one of the best sources of B-vitamins, which are essential for energy, so if you are vegan, you will most likely need to supplement with B-vitamins, especially B-12. This is important from a brain health perspective because deficiencies in vitamin B-12 have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. If you or someone you know has been on acid blockers for a while, make sure to have your B-12 levels checked. Those medications interfere with your body’s ability to synthesize B-12 and often lead to deficiencies.

6) Focus on Feel Good Fats

Despite what the 1990s ingrained in us about fearing fat, we need fat to be well. The solid mass of our brain is 60% fat, and the fats we eat directly impact the functionality of our brain. Consuming enough healthy fats reduces the risk of depression and helps brain functions like memory, speaking ability, and motor skills. We need a variety of omega-3 fatty acids, including ALA, DHA and EPA as well as some omega-6 fatty acids. However, we want the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats to be less than 4:1 for optimal health. Ratios much higher than that indicate elevated inflammation in the body, which can trigger a cascade of physical, emotional and mental health issues.

Top sources of omega-3 fatty acids include mackeral, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, oysters, sardines, anchovies, caviar, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans. Other decent sources of omega-3 fats are pastured eggs, omega-3 enriched eggs, meats from grass-fed animals, grass-fed dairy products, hemp seeds, and some vegetables like spinach and Brussels sprouts.

Sources of omega-6 fats (which are inflammatory in excess) include vegetable oils, many processed salad dressings, mayonnaise, fast foods, fried foods, cookies and cakes, processed pork products, and dairy. These fats are also found in eggs to some extent and in nuts and seeds. While nuts and seeds do contain healthy fats, it’s possible to overdo it. You can ask your doctor to test your omega 6:3 ratio the next time you have blood work done to find out what your levels are.

If you don’t consume seafood or adequate amounts of the other omega-3-rich foods, consider investing in a fish oil supplement. To get the best recommendations, check out this fish oil buyer’s guide by Chris Kresser (one of my favorite nutrition experts!).

7) Herb and Spice It Up!

For many of us, herbs and spices can seem like an afterthought. After all, most people simply use salt and pepper and the occasional sprinkle of garlic or chili powder to flavor food. We are missing out on a world of flavor and antioxidant power when we don’t use herbs and spices regularly.

I love what Dr. Amen has to say about the healing power of herbs and spices:

Herbs and spices contain so many health-promoting substances that it almost makes sense to store them in the medicine cabinet rather than the spice cabinet!

Photo by Pratiksha Mohanty

Believe it or not, herbs and spices like cloves, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, turmeric, sage, and parsley have some of the highest ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) values of any foods – even more than blueberries! To give you a sense of just how powerful herbs and spices are, the ORAC value of oregano is 1750,000 compared to 9,000 for blueberries. Think of the ORAC value as the antioxidant power of the food. Remember how important antioxidants are to brain health and fighting inflammation and DNA damage?

The next time you’re at the grocery store, spend a little more time in the herbs and spices aisle (we opt for the self-serve jars of herbs and spices at MOMs Organic Market) and in the produce aisle, where you’ll find fresh herbs. Use dried herbs and spices at the beginning of the cooking process to infuse their flavors and medicinal properties into your meals. Finish off your meal prep by adding in some chopped herbs to enhance the brain-boosting power of a dish.

Another one of my favorite ways to easily add herbs and spices into my diet is to drink herbal tea daily. My favorite brands are Traditional Medicinals, Choice, Pukka, Buddha Teas, Organic India, and Yogi teas. Black tea is also an excellent source of plant-based compounds that support health.

So, there you have it, friends! Everything you could ever want to know about how to use food to nourish and fuel your brain. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

To learn more about how to boost your brain, check out the books below:

I’m Into It! Swapples, Superhero Muffin & the Hidden Brain

Last summer, I started a series called “I’m Into It!” where I share some of my favorite recipes, books, websites, gadgets and brands. The last post from this series covered the reasons why we L-O-V-E our instant pot, so check that out here if you missed it!

Let’s move on to what I’m into today. I have three exciting recs in store for you, friends!

  1. One of our FAVORITE freezer staples.
  2. A killer muffin recipe that is filling enough for a meal.
  3. A podcast that is blowing my mind and will hopefully rock your world, too!

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve seen me post about this first food, but if you haven’t, you’re in for a treat today!

Swapples

One day at MOMs Organic Market, I was walking through the freezer aisle and saw packaging that caught my eye.

Vegan

Paleo

Gluten-free

Swapples.

“What the heck is a Swapple?” I wondered. I’d never heard of them before.

I grabbed the package and noticed the simplicity of the real food ingredients (healthier “swaps” to traditional ingredients in packaged food). When I brought a bag home,  Bill and I fell in love with them immediately and always have a package in our freezer! Swapples are plant-based waffles made with whole fruits, veggies and spices. All of the waffles are made without gluten, certified vegan, and contain only about six ingredients! You can use them like you would use toast, a bagel, pizza crust or any other medium for stacking tasty toppings!

I’ve had the privilege of meeting the face behind the brand – founder Rebecca Peress. She is a dynamo and is so passionate and enthusiastic about what she does. She invited me to a Swapples tasting before they rolled out their blueberry flavor about a year or so ago and I met another blogger, Crunchy Kat, there, and we’ve since become buddies. If you’re not already a part of the Swapples community on Instagram, start following them! They post drool-worthy photos of some of the most creative Swapples meal ideas.

Flavors: Savory (Everything, Tomato Pizza, Garlicky Greens) and Sweet (Blueberry, Cinnamon).

Where to Buy: Find where Swapples are sold near you using this store locator.

Superhero Muffin

One of the best parts about my job is meeting hundreds of new people who can teach me new things on a regular basis. Whether I’m speaking at companies or conferences, I love meeting people. I believe that, if we’re open to it, we can learn something from everyone we meet.

Earlier this year, I was at a company facilitating a training about how to beat burnout and become our best selves, given my experience with burnout last year. In one of the sessions, I was asking everyone in the room to share their favorite apps, podcasts, books, and other tools that have helped them improve some area of their lives.

One person wrote down a book I hadn’t heard of – Run Fast Eat Slow – which was written by athletes for athletes. I don’t consider myself an “athlete,” but I checked out their website and align so much with their philosophy around food and love their concept of “indulgent nourishment.” (Isn’t that the coolest phrase??)

They focus on using fat for flavor and performance, don’t obsess over protein, and know that restrictive diets do more harm than good. In my initial scroll through their website, I stumbled upon an AMAZING recipe that I’ve made about three times in the past few months. They’re called Superhero Muffins and are great for a grab-and-go breakfast. I’ve taken them with me for snacks and breakfast when traveling. They’re also gluten-free 🙂

Try the Recipe: Here is the recipe for the Superhero Muffins!

Hidden Brain Podcast

I’m not even sure how I first stumbled upon the Hidden Brain podcast. I think it came up as a recommended podcast, since Bill and I have been listening to another fascinating podcast – Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell.

Hidden Brain is an NPR podcast that uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships. The topics are intriguing, and I’ve listened to multiple episodes in a row when traveling. They are inspiring, informative, and really get you to think differently. I love being intellectually stimulated, and this podcast does that while also keeping me emotionally engaged.

Subscribe: Check out the Hidden Brain podcast and listen to past episodes on the podcast app on your phone or here on their website. Here are a few of my favorite episodes (because of my interest in relationships and thought patterns and how to improve them!):



Reader Feedback

How about you? Have you tried Swapples or Superhero Muffins? Do you have a favorite podcast that you love listening to? Feel free to leave a comment below 🙂

I’m Into It: Instant Pot, Kitchfix Granola + Food Art

It’s been some time since I told you guys what I’m “into” on here, but I’ve been keeping the updates coming on Instagram, so make sure you follow my Instagram page to get the latest recipes and inspirational posts each week.

Today, I have three recommendations for you, and all of them are related to the kitchen!

  1. A gadget
  2. A snack
  3. Beautiful art

To say I’ve been obsessed with the first item is an understatement. For the past month or so, Bill and I have been looking for recipes that require us to use only one gadget and dirty only one pot. As much as I love to cook, I HATE to clean, so having a device that makes the clean-up process easy goes a long way with me.

Meet, the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot

I remember seeing people post about this gadget around this time last year, but I couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. “I have a crockpot,” I remember thinking to myself. “What’s so great about this instant pot thing?”

On Cyber Monday last year, the price went down so low that I had to snag one. Because I wasn’t totally sold even at that point, the Instant Pot sat in the box until August of 2017. I know I’m not the only one who does this! I’m going to bet that you have some boxed appliance collecting dust on a shelf or hiding so far back in a closet or cabinet that it’s not worth the effort to unearth it.

I can’t believe I waited so long to use this!

The Instant Pot has quickly become one of our top three must-have kitchen gadgets. Sure, it’s bulky and takes up a decent amount of space, but it makes cooking and clean-up SO SIMPLE. The Instant Pot is 7 kitchen appliances in 1: Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Sauté, Yogurt Maker and Warmer. It prepares dishes up to 70% faster than cooking them the conventional way. 

Here are just a few of the delicious recipes we’ve made with the Instant Pot. Each one made enough to fill three quart-sized mason jars, which means lots of leftovers and less time in the kitchen during the week:

Buy It: On Amazon (wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday – it’ll be worth it!)

Kitchfix Paleo Granola

I first found out about these guys a few years ago at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore. I liked that their granola had a lower sugar count than other granolas on the market and that it was a grain-free option. Some people really struggle to digest grains of any kind – even gluten-free ones – so having options for snacks and breakfast that don’t contain grains is a big deal.

Their grain-free granola is a satisfying snack (full of protein, fiber and healthy fats), a balanced start to your day, and a pantry staple perfect for parfaits and even topping your favorite dairy-free ice cream. They do not contain refined sugars and are always gluten-free, non-GMO (not genetically modified), and paleo.

My two favorite flavors are the Cocoa Sea Salt (also made with freeze-dried raspberries!!) and the Lemon Berry Chia. Other flavors include Original, Vanilla Berry, and Honey Pecan.

Buy It: Create an account at Kitchfix.com and receive 20% off your first order using the code NEW20. You can also buy Kitchfix on Amazon and use this zip code search to find where it is sold near you.

Marcella Kriebel Art + Illustration

I first found out about Marcella’s art at Artscape, an annual festival in Baltimore celebrating local art and artisans. I was drawn to her watercolor images of fruits and vegetables and knew I’d ultimately want to hang them in our kitchen once we renovated it.

Her prints are beautiful, unique, and full of vibrant colors. In addition to hanging them through our house (the Brassica and Rosaceae prints above are hanging in our kitchen and a pomegranate print is in our hallway), I’ve purchased these as gifts for other food lovers.

From her Illustrated Feast Watercolor Prints to greeting cards, frames, illustrated cookbooks and custom signs, Marcella has an incredible gift of turning food into art with paint and water. It’s amazing!

Buy It: Check out Marcella’s website or her etsy page.  It’ll be a feast for your eyes!

That’s what I’ve been into lately, my friends!

Let me know if you have an Instant Pot (and what your favorite recipes are!), whether you’ve tried Kitchfix granola and if you end up buying some of Marcella’s amazing artwork. I love hearing from you and what’s going on in your lives, so send me a note to let me know 🙂

How I Recovered from Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

Prior to February 2017, I had never heard of Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). I had just been diagnosed with it after being sick for four months and not knowing why.

Fast forward seven months, and I know more than I ever thought I would about EBV because of the incredible coaching and guidance I have received from my nutritionist, Kasia Kines. An acute form of mono, EBV occurs more frequently in immunocompromised people, especially after periods of prolonged or intense stress or hormonal changes. The stress that had been accumulating in my life up to that point had nowhere else to go, so it took me down for the count.

As I wrote in a previous post, EBV has been a gift, even though it has been frustrating, confusing and overwhelming to deal with. Since sharing my story, multiple people have reached out to me asking me what I did to treat the virus and quiet it. The truth is, once you get EBV, you always have it, so once it’s been activated, you have no choice but to make some changes to your lifestyle. Most people have the virus in their body but never experience its activation. I had the perfect storm of circumstances come together to turn it “on”.

I’ve since learned how to calm it down, restore my immune system and get my energy back, and that’s what I want to share with you today. I’m forever grateful to my nutritionist, Kasia, for guiding me through this healing process. If you know someone struggling with EBV, tell them to contact her!

1) Rest

This was the most important thing I did.

And one of the toughest.

I had to prioritize sleep more than ever before. In the past, I could easily get a second wind at 10pm and just keep going until midnight reading, writing or watching mindless TV. After EBV, sleep was no longer a negotiable behavior. I consistently got about nine to ten hours of sleep each night in the three or four months following the diagnosis. My body needed additional time to recover and repair itself, so I gave it what it needed. Getting inadequate sleep suppresses the immune system and can trigger a cascade of hormonal changes, which can trigger EBV reactivation.

I also gave my body a break from movement. Any physical exertion at all seemed to set me back, so that meant no exercise for several months. Gentle walks and gentle stretching or yoga every now and then seemed to be okay, but my body needed to rest in every way, including physically. It took me almost six months to recover the vigor I once I had physically, which was frustrating but necessary. Since then, if I’m feeling mentally or emotionally run down, I am more aware, and I choose to be gentle with my body and movement on those days.

I love taking epsom salt baths, started reading even more than usual, wrote in my journal A LOT, listened to music, read my devotional, and was frequently diffusing calming essential oils like lavender and frankincense.

2) Slow Down + Create Space

Yup. This sucked. I didn’t want to do it. I thought I could keep being superwoman and superhuman.

EBV was the only thing that got my attention and made me take changes to my life seriously. Hormonal changes due to stress and even that time of the month can trigger EBV, so reducing stress is super important.

Prior to the virus, I would jam pack every day and week with as much excitement as I thought I could handle. Sometimes that meant four speaking gigs in one week, often with new content. I had no idea how exhausting that was for my mind and body, even though I love speaking. I had to email my boss and our CEO letting them know the seriousness of the virus and asking for support in terms of time and staffing. I knew I had to protect my calendar, which meant no more than two speaking gigs in any week. Period.

Slowing down meant saying “no” to people, late night socializing and exciting “opportunities”, so I could take care of myself and respect my need to create space in my life.

I’m still working on this, but I am so much more aware when I’m heading in a not so good direction that I catch myself before I go off the deep end. I also started seeing a therapist to start processing and working on some of the emotional and psychological factors that cause me to run myself into the ground. I know I have a lot of emotions inside that I have not acknowledged or addressed that send me into a spiral, and I am committed to getting to the root of them, too!

3) Connect to Community

As someone who finds it easy to be alone and crawl into a hole when I’m feeling down, I’ve learned in the importance of reaching out to people and bringing them into the muck with you. I can’t tell you the number of people who were praying for me, with me, and over me during this time.

I felt like there was an army of love behind me, pleading for my healing.

There were multiple days when I was at an 8-session spiritual gifts training at my church and was so sick I just sobbed out of desperation and pain, and people weren’t repelled by it; they came closer to me. When I was at my worst, people were checking in on me, asking how I was doing, sending sweet text messages, and stopping by to see me. I’m so grateful for all of the people who loved me so well through this period of time.

If you’re going through a difficult illness, REACH OUT to people. ASK FOR HELP. BE VULNERABLE. It’s one of the best things I ever did and that lesson has stuck with me ever since. I feel closer and more connected to my friends and larger community than ever before.

What a gift.

4) Supplement***

Kasia was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable in this area. She was in the process of finishing her final PhD project for a degree in Functional Nutrition and had selected EBV as her topic of choice. Lucky for me! She put me on antiviral, immune-boosting, energy-restoring supplements, which I have listed below.

Exact dosages should be determined by a healthcare provider with experience with EBV.*** For that, Kasia has no equal.

  • Licorice Root Extract (NOT Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice): One of the strongest anti-viral foods out there, I took this every either in the form of tea or a capsule from Vital Nutrients. Licorice root is contraindicated for people with hypertension, as it increases blood pressure. My favorite tea brand is Buddha Teas Licorice Root tea. I buy it at MOMs Organic Market.
  • Selenium: strengthens and protects the nervous system; antiviral
  • L-Lysine: strong antiviral amino acid
  • NAC: anti-replication of the virus and cell system support (energy)
  • Vitamin D3 + K2: increases energy levels and immunity, boosts mood and balances hormones; antiviral
  • B-vitamin Complex: supports balanced moods, healthy energy levels, and the nervous and immune systems
  • Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin NOT cyanocobalamin – read the label): strengthens the nervous system and increases energy
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: prime modulator of inflammatory hormones
  • CoQ10: a natural antioxidant synthesized by the body that can improve energy production in cells
  • Magnesium: anti-inflammatory for nerves; nerve calmer; reduces constipation
  • Vitamin C: strengthens immune system and flushes out EBV toxins from the liver
  • Vitamin A: immune system support
  • Turmeric: active ingredient curcumin helps strengthen the endocrine and central nervous systems
  • Probiotics: digestive system support. Make sure to get these from foods like naturally fermented sauerkraut (HEX Ferments, Farmhouse Culture, Bubbies brands). Otherwise, use a high quality probiotic with a variety of strains (at least 8 different kinds) and 10-50 billion CFUs.

A few other supplements and herbs I didn’t use that can be helpful are red marine algae, nettle leaf (get in tea form), 5-MTHF, lemon balm (tea form), elderberry, red clover, star anise, rose hip tea, cat’s claw.

***As with any health condition, especially one as serious as EBV, consult with a trusted health care provider. My choice would be Kasia!

5) Eat to Nourish and Heal the Body

Every bite I consumed was intended to calm the raging inflammation in my body and heal my digestive system. I was already dairy-free and gluten-free, which helped because gluten and dairy tend to be key triggers of autoimmune conditions and promote gut dysfunction. They tend to trigger EBV symptoms, too. I pretty much nixed sugar, alcohol, caffeine, corn (digestive irritant) and even eggs for a while because they can aggravate EBV, according to Kasia’s research.

Here are some of the main foods I consumed a LOT of because of their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and gut-supportive properties.

Veggies: celery (whole plant and juiced), sprouts (I LOVE Potomac Sprouts Company sprouts), cilantro, spirulina, asparagus, spinach, artichokes, parsley, sauerkraut, fermented veggies, lettuces except iceberg, green beans, winter squash, zucchini, kale, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, fennel

Roots: garlic, ginger, turmeric (try this turmeric golden milk smoothie!)

Fruit: wild blueberries (try this blueberry avocado smoothie bowl), pears, bananas, red-skinned apples, blackberries, melons, raspberries, papaya, apricots, pomegranate, grapefruit

Other: coconut oil, bone broth, herbal teas made with licorice root, ginger, fennel, chamomile, nettle leaf, lemon balm, red clover or rose hips

That’s a wrap, my friends. I hope it helps you and anyone you know on a journey of healing autoimmune conditions or chronic illnesses like Epstein-Barr Virus. Be patient and give your body what it needs to heal, and it will respond.

Sending love and light to all of you!

The Secret Ingredients for Anticancer Salads

I didn’t eat my first salad until I was in college.

I liked vegetables but just couldn’t get excited about a plate of raw ones and was always grossed out by condiments and anything besides butter and parmesan cheese being on my food, so salad dressings were out.

Fast forward to my 30s, and I am a salad fiend! I love them and do what I can to make them exciting, colorful and delicious.

My husband is a teacher and was telling me about a potluck they recently had at his school. One of the teachers wanted to go in on a salad with him, and they were going to bring the standard lettuce + tomatoes + carrots + cucumbers with ranch dressing.

Now, as a disclaimer, I believe that eating fresh, whole foods, especially vegetables, is a wonderful idea. But what if you could supercharge your salads with more medicinal, disease-preventive, feel good ingredients??

This video from nutritionfacts.org has gotten me to think differently about salads, and I think it will do the same for you. It also reveals the #1 anticancer vegetable, so check it out!

Based on that video, I thought I’d share the template that I use to mix and match ingredients when making salads. I still include all vegetables but ordered them based on how cancer preventive they are, so use this as a guide for upgrading your salads.

The key with keeping salads exciting is to use a variety of colors, textures, and flavors. Based on this list, you can come up with endless combinations of beautiful, nourishing and delicious salads!

  • Base: spinach, kale, arugula, Romaine, spring mix, watercress, Bibb lettuce, red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, radicchio, bok choy, endive
  • Veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, shredded cabbage, shredded brussels sprouts, scallions, shallots, onions, leeks, fennel, celery, peppers, beets, radishes, roasted sweet potatoes and other root vegetables, cooked asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots
  • Super food add-ons: broccoli sprouts (Potomac Sprout Co. is my favorite!), lentil sprouts, bean sprouts, hemp seeds, goji berries, mulberries
  • Chopped herbs: basil, parsley, cilantro, dill, oregano, mint
  • Fruit: berries are my go to but sometimes apples, pears or peaches fit the bill! Avocados are a great substitute for cheese (and they’re a fruit!)
  • Fermented Food: chopped sauerkraut, fermented beets (Farmhouse Culture), or kimchi. Adding these to your salad will enhance digestion and leave you feeling less bloated.
  • Protein: lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, cannellini beans, chicken, salmon
  • Crunch: roasted chickpeas (Chickpeatos and Saffron Road are my top two brands), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pecans or cashews
  • Dressing: check out over a dozen dressing recipes below, most of which include the all-star ingredient – GARLIC! My favorite brands of store-bought dressing are Tessemae’s and Bragg’s.

In the next post, I will be sharing 16 supercharged salad recipes, so you have some ideas for how to make this happen…and keep your salads exciting!

Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

I just finished up teaching a two-part series about Healthy Meal Planning Made Easy at the Institute for Integrative Health. We had a great time and made some tasty recipes. I love showing how eating well can be easier, more fun, and delicious, and these classes are the perfect opportunity for me to do that.

I summed up my top healthy meal planning tips from week #1 in this post and shared links to over a dozen simple recipes, including the mason jar salad and tropical-inspired smoothie we made and sampled during the session.

In class #2, we focused on batch cooking, my favorite gadgets, the ultimate food storage guide, and my top tips for eating healthy on the go. Batch cooking is a technique of preparing larger quantities of simple foods that can be mixed and matched throughout the week. I love what Nutrition Stripped has to say about strategies for how do this in her Batch Cooking 101 blog post.

We kicked off the class with a sample of one of my favorite new packaged foods – Swapples – which is a new spin on a traditional waffle. Swapples are gluten-free, vegan, and paleo and can be used as the base of or topping for just about any meal. We tried the Tomato Pizza version, which I’d recommend dipping into marinara sauce!  For the “eating on the go” part of class, we also sampled one of my favorite real food snack bars – an Almond Cranberry Everbar.

We had fun playing with our food and making this easy 10-minute white bean, tomato and zucchini noodle saute. Two brave volunteers came up to help me spiralize the zucchini into noodles and did a great job! Want to get your own spiralizer? Check out this one.

Since one of the main concepts I wanted to introduce was batch cooking, we talked about how to use quinoa two different ways – one savory preparation and one sweet. If you prepare a big pot of plain quinoa (let’s say you cook 4 cups) at the beginning of the week, you can use it for a number of different dishes. If you’ve ever made a mistake cooking a batch of quinoa and ended up with a giant mass or unevenly cooked pieces, read this post that reveals the SECRET to cooking perfect quinoa…every time!

You can use it as the base of grain bowl like this Sweet Potato, Edamame & Quinoa Bowl that was a BIG hit. You could substitute it rice in a stir fry, toss it into a soup or stew or on top of a salad, or use it to make a breakfast bowl. Think of the quinoa as a substitute for oatmeal. Since it’s already cooked, this is a great way to save time in the morning. I’m going to experiment with other versions of this recipe that combine different ingredients, but this is a simple one to start with, so I hope you’ll give it a try!

Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

This tasty and easy breakfast is a great way to use leftover plain quinoa.

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2
Author Rachel Druckenmiller

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon 100% pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 apple diced
  • 1/4 cup walnuts chopped

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except apple and walnuts in a small saucepan on the stove over medium low heat, stirring until heated through and quinoa begins to thicken, about 8-10 minutes.

  2. Pour into bowls and top with chopped apple, walnuts, and, if needed, a light drizzle of maple syrup.

Recipe Notes

You can also top this dish with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped almonds or hemp seeds.

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!

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