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My Food Philosophy: What Matters Most

Are you paleo? Vegan? Gluten-free? What diet are you on?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked questions about what “diet” I follow. I get it. It can be tempting to categorize ourselves and to label the way we eat.

We have a desire to know “the way” and what the right answer is when it comes to what we “should” be eating. But I’m not a huge fan of labels. They can be limiting, restrictive, and isolating.

If I had to describe the type of food I eat, I would say it is colorful, mostly plant-based, with a focus on whole, real ingredients that I can pronounce. I eat to feel good, not just for the next five minutes, but for as long as possible. I’ve found that gluten and dairy-based foods don’t make my body feel good, so I don’t eat them. I prioritize the quality of my food and want to know where it comes from and whom my purchase impacts.

But I’m not “on a diet,” and I don’t eat this way to prove anything to anyone.

A few years ago, I interviewed a local naturopathic doctor, Dr. Kristapps Paddock, and I’ll never forget what he said.

Dogma is a belief or set of beliefs that’s accepted by the members of a group without being questioned or doubted.

Isn’t that true of most diets?

We don’t question them. We accept them as truth because some celebrity, health expert, or friend told us so.

Unfortunately, this has brought us to a place of not questioning things, not asking why, not getting curious. We don’t stop to notice if they are working for us. One of the most helpful and transformational things we can do when it comes to what we eat is to question everything. To get curious. To pay attention to our body’s signals.

We know more than we’ve ever known about food and nutrition, but there is still so much more to learn that it doesn’t make sense for us to be polarizing when it comes to eating. It drives a lot of people away from conversations about nutrition. While the same general principles are universal (i.e., eat food, not too much, lots of plants), the nuances may not be. Everybody is different, so what’s most important is that we get curious about what works for US (not our neighbor, co-worker, friend or family member).

So, instead of adopting a dogmatic attitude toward eating, I have a food philosophy. It captures my approach to eating, the mindset I have around food, and what I believe to be true. It communicates what I’m about and how I want to think and feel when it comes to food.

It’s not irrefutable. It’s not scientific. It’s not the only way.

It’s empowering. It’s clarifying. It reminds me of what is true for me and my body. It’s what I’ve come to learn works best for me.

As you read it, I invite you think about which parts resonate with you. If anything does, try to hold on to that idea and let it guide the eating choices you make this week. If you want to take it to another level, try coming up with your own version of a food philosophy!

My Food Philosophy

I believe food matters.
I believe my body matters.
I believe I matter.
I believe I’m more than a number.
More than a dress size, calorie count, or scale reading.
I believe in being curious about what I eat and noticing, without judging, how food affects me.
I believe in connecting with my food, how it makes me feel, where it comes from and the impact it has beyond my plate.
I believe food is a way to connect with my body, my community, and my purpose.
I believe in slowing down and savoring food, noticing its textures, aromas, and beauty; pausing to express gratitude for the beauty on my plate.
I believe in enjoying food without anxiety, guilt, shame or judgment.
I believe in elevating the quality of my food and eating the highest quality available.
I believe in upgrading my diet to crowd out whatever is not working for me.
I believe in eating food that tastes good AND makes me feel good.
I believe in being open to exploring and trying new foods.
I believe food is inherently amoral (neither “good” nor “bad”).
I believe I am responsible for my eating choices.
If I’m going to eat it, I own it (I’m not “cheating”).
I believe having energy, glowing skin, a strong immune system and a positive mood are signs that I’m giving my body what it needs.
I believe in fueling and nourishing my body with whole, vibrant, healing food, so I can feel alive and energized and fulfill my purpose here on earth.
But I believe food is only part of the puzzle when it comes to being our best selves.
Food matters, but there is more to living well than eating well.
Friendships, community, connection.
Peace, patience, kindness.
Faith, grace, joy.
Love.

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. So, What is CBD Oil? 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. There are loads of ways that people take CBD and there are loads of reasons to why people take it. For example, you could check out something like these cbd sleep drops, which are obviously there to help you sleep. It can be used to calm you down, soothe pain and has many other benefits to some people. Which is why it is becoming increasingly popular for people. 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!

A Healthy Foodie’s Ultimate Guide to Chicago

My husband, Bill, and I were recently in Chicago for a week, celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary. We had an amazing time. Think of all of the offerings of New York City but in a friendlier, cleaner, more laid back environment.

That’s Chicago.

We believe in really celebrating each year of our marriage and travel to a new city each year to eat, explore, rest, and spend most of each day outdoors. We splurge in just about every way because we believe our relationship is worth it.

Our trip to Chicago was no exception.

We had beautiful weather (apparently, August is the time to go…not so much in February or one of the winter months). Most of the time when we travel, we go for less time or have other commitments like weddings to break up the trip. This time was the most like our honeymoon – seven days with just the two of us!

One of the things that surprised me most was that Chicago is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to and one of the most beautiful.

There were flowers and parks at every turn! I felt like I was in a cute European city at times.

Dozens of people shared recommendations with us and we followed quite a few of them. I thought I’d put together a post with all of the places we ate, things we did, and where we stayed. If you are ever planning a trip to Chicago or know someone who is, you’ll have it all in one place!

Because of my dietary restrictions (no gluten or milk products), I could have been limited in Chicago – the city of deep dish pizza – but I’m happy to say we had lots of incredible meals that both of us enjoyed. Everywhere we went was accommodating and many places had gluten-free menus, so I didn’t feel the least bit deprived. Here’s the scoop on places to eat and fun things to do! Click on the red hyperlinked titles to go to each place’s website to learn more.

Where We Ate

Beatrix

The Scoop: With multiple locations throughout the city, this place is a solid pick for any meal, and it was our very first stop once we arrived. According to their website, Beatrix is a neighborhood coffeehouse, restaurant and meeting place in Chicago’s River North, Streeterville, and Fulton Market neighborhoods. The menu features healthy meets delicious options, and also includes an iconic coffee and pastry counter, including signature cookies and in-house bakery favorites. That was enough to sell us, so we went for lunch.

What We Ate: Bill had the Kennebec fries with crispy lemons and chilis and Dr. Bob’s turkey burger served with poached egg mayo and a quinoa & almond kale side salad. I wanted something simple, so I opted for the grilled chicken kebab served on top of English pea hummus with lemon vinaigrette and a cucumber salad. I could have eaten an entire bowl of the hummus. The flavors were on point. Visit their website here for menus and a list of their locations.

The Purple Pig

The Scoop: When one of my coworkers found out I was going on a trip to Chicago, without hesitating, she said: “You HAVE to go to The Purple Pig.” She had recently been and said the trip wouldn’t complete without a meal there. Another Facebook friend also recommended it, and even our Uber driver was jealous as he dropped us off because he hadn’t been in some time. Since opening in 2009, The Purple Pig has been named one of the “10 Best New Restaurants in America” by Bon Appétit magazine, showcasing the flavors of Italy, Greece and Spain. They don’t take reservations, so it’s best to go as early as possible because they’re pretty much always busy.

What We Ate: Despite its name, there are a bunch of vegetarian and seafood options available in addition to their signature trio of “cheese, swine and wine”. I had my eye on the octopus appetizer because it was so highly recommended, but we arrived so early that the chef hadn’t fully prepared all of that day’s octopus.

Womp womp. Bummer.

We started with an appetizer of shaved carrots with kumquats (a small citrus fruit) and spinach served on top of a tahini-based spread and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and peanuts. The flavors and textures were out of this world amazing. We had another seasonal appetizer of mussels served with cauliflower, mushrooms, and rice, and Bill had the milk-braised pork shoulder (the best he’s had, he said).

Just as we were closing out our check, our waitress came up to us with a smile, “The octopus is ready!” We knew we had to try it, and OH MY GOODNESS are we glad we did! It was Bill’s first time eating octopus, and he devoured it along with me.

The grilled octopus was served with fingerling potatoes, green beans, and the best salsa verde I have ever had in my life. It was one of our top three dishes of the entire trip! Check out The Purple Pig’s menu and learn more here.

Hi-Vibe Superfood Juicery

The Scoop: After getting pretty stuffed the night before at The Purple Pig, we wanted something light to get the day started on the day of our anniversary, so we jogged to Hi-Vibe Juicery, which was about a mile from our hotel. I had stalked their website and knew they had a variety of elixirs, smoothies, juices, and broths that would nourish my body (and they’re all paleo and 100% organic, too!).

What We Drank: We started the day with a Kill Shot (camu camu berry, oil of oregano, echinacea, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, lemon, green apple) to get our immune system and digestion going. We also had one of the coconut and apple cider vinegar drinks (the name is escaping me!) to rehydrate.

I ordered a serving of their activated bone broth made with these nourishing and immune-boosting ingredients: 100% grass-raised beef + pastured chicken bone broth spiked with a signature blend of ginger, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, coconut cream, and sea salt, brain octane, MCT, oil of oregano, black pepper extract, cayenne, grass-fed butter, and dulse (seaweed). It was so full of flavor, and introducing a warm, healing liquid like that to your stomach first thing in the morning can really help rev up your digestive system to take on the day. I also stopped by their second location a few days later and grabbed the Mood Mylk, but I’d love to try their Shaman Shake and Golden Mylk. This place is one of the best juice and smoothie bars in Chicago. For more info and the full menu, click here.

Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe

The Scoop: Bill and I love breakfast food, so we wanted to go to a top-rated spot for brunch on our anniversary. What drew me to this place was the variety in the menu and the fact that they have gluten-free breakfast options. Apparently, the waits can run nearly 90 minutes on weekends, so get there early!

What We Ate: We had a delicious meal, and I was even able to have gluten-free pancakes (you wouldn’t even know they’re gluten-free!) as a side to my meal. I got the vegan breakfast hash served with hash browns, spinach, wild mushrooms, avocado and their homemade gluten-free veggie burger. I topped off the burger with an overeasy egg.

Bill had the Fresca omelet made with sundried tomatoes, provolone, basil and avocado. I had a bite, and it was delicious! He also got a side of their cinnamon roll pancakes, and both of our bellies were happy when we left. Here’s their full menu and website with locations.

Maple & Ash

The Scoop: We wavered between several options when deciding where to spend our anniversary dinner but ended up picking Maple & Ash because of their high reviews online. What an experience! From the photo booth (which included a GIF-maker!) on the first floor to the buzz and vibe of the main restaurant, we knew we’d made the right choice.

What We Ate: Everything! At least that’s what it felt like when we left 🙂 We were welcomed with a dish of blistered shishito peppers and radishes served with sea salt and chilled butter along with a welcome cocktail made with vodka, blood orange bitters, lemon juice, elderflower, and vermouth. I’m a bit of a teetotaler and usually get mocktails when we go out to eat, but this drink was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was so light and smooth that I ended up having two.

Dinner was over the top delicious and fun. Bobby was the best waiter and really made the meal special. We started with the roasted beet and shaved greens salad served with rosemary roasted almonds and ordered their signature fire-roasted seafood tour (YOU HAVE TO DO THIS), and it was divine. I had the halibut for my main course, and Bill had the Skuna Bay salmon. Despite how majorly stuffed we were, we had to say “yes” to the make your own sundae dessert bar. I opted for blueberry sorbet, and Bill had ice cream.

Girl and the Goat

The Scoop: Bill and I have been fans of the Bravo show, Top Chef, for years, so when a friend recommended this restaurant and we saw that Top Chef’s first female winner was in charge, we knew we had to go. Reservations are tough to get at this place, so I would suggest booking at least a month out or do what we did and stop by at the start of dinner service at around 5pm on a weekday. We were seated immediately and just had to be out by 6:30, which wasn’t hard.

What We Ate: Girl and the Goat is a small plates restaurant (think tapas-style), so we ordered a few different dishes to share before heading to see Hamilton in downtown Chicago. We started with the kohlrabi salad, which was served with fennel, evalon (on the side – this is cheese), toasted almonds, roasted shiitake mushrooms, and blueberries. It was a neat combination of flavors and textures but was a bit salty for me. We tried the roasted cauliflower served with pickled peppers, pine nuts, and mint and enjoyed that.

Our favorite dish was pan-roasted halibut served with marcona almond butter, white asparagus, blueberry nuoc cham (a Vietnamese dipping sauce), and beech mushrooms. The marcona almond butter was out of this world. We wanted to lick the bowl when we were finished. We also ordered the sautéed green beans topped with a fish sauce vinaigrette and crunchy cashews and the seared scallop & sausage summery succotash served with green harissa. This place is a must-stop dining spot on a trip to Chicago, so check it out!

Real Good Juice Co.

The Scoop: I love food puns, and this place was full of them (how about the Kal E. Kapowski Smoothie…Saved by the Bell, anyone?). For more punny names, check out their full menu here. According to their site, this is what they do: “We are a company that makes juices that are real good. Cold pressed juices, locally sourced and organic smoothies, salads, granola and other stuff.” I’m in.

What We Ate: We stopped by for a late lunch after our day at the spa (info below!) on our anniversary. We shared an order of their avocado toast served on gluten-free bread, and I had one of their elixirs. What really brought us there was the promise of dairy-free frozen yogurt (chocolate!). We shared a serving of that topped with chocolate avocado mousse (like this recipe on my blog) and cacao nibs, which I’ve written about here. We swung by again on another morning midway through a run to have a juice to start the day. I always look for less than 10 grams of sugar in juices and make sure they are cold-pressed. Check the label because a lot of “healthy” juices can be super high in sugar.

Wheat’s End Cafe

The Scoop: If you are gluten-free and miss things like biscuits, donuts, bread, muffins, and even bagels, Wheat’s End Cafe has you covered! The cafe is located in the Lakeview area of Chicago and is 100% gluten-free. In 2007, a friend of Wheat’s End co-owners Susan McMillan and Amelia Fonti was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Soon after, Amelia learned that she, too, was gluten intolerant. They became aware of the growing unmet need for gluten-free food that did not compromise taste and texture.

What We Ate: We started with a warm cinnamon roll because who doesn’t love cinnamon rolls?? Bill ordered avocado toast with an overeasy egg on top and gobbled his up. I ordered the shakshuka pizza, which is basically eggs on a pizza (all dairy-free, too!), served with a vegan pesto sauce. I wanted to love it, but the crust was a little tough to cut through, and the cheese slid off pretty easily. The flavors were great, but I’d definitely order a biscuit, avocado toast, or a pumpkin donut next time since those were all highly rated…and more breakfast-like. The menu was so extensive, I’d definitely want to go back to try more!

Left Coast Food & Juice

The Scoop: This place was recommended by my boss’s daughter, Ann, who recently moved to Chicago. After checking out their website and learning a bit more about their story, I was sold. Here’s what they have to say: Left Coast was created from the idea that eating healthy should be quick and easy and still taste delicious […] Our philosophy is to change the perception that eating healthy is dull and flavorless.

YES. YES. YES to all of that.

What We Ate: I wanted something light and refreshing, so I ordered the Jimmy Ching salad made with napa cabbage, romaine hearts, snow peas, crunchy quinoa, cashews, green onion, mint, sesame seeds, and a Chinese mustard vinaigrette. I added some tofu to my dish for a bit of protein. It was the perfect summer salad. Bill ordered the morning buzz smoothie: espresso, cacao, peanut butter, maca powder, banana, and dates. I had a few sips, even though I don’t love the taste of coffee and really liked it. This is a great place to check out for a salad, bowl, juice or smoothie!

Ēma

The Scoop: My friend Sara, who is a fellow gluten-free foodie, enthusiastically recommended this tapas restaurant after a recent trip to Chicago. I’m so glad she did! Everything was delicious. When we arrived at the hostess stand, I saw a business card with the name “Aaron Covert, Executive Chef” on it and instantly recognized the name. We graduated from college together, and he has clearly made a name for himself, so we were that much more excited to eat there.

What We Ate: It was so hard to choose from their menu, but we were happy with everything. To simplify things for you a bit, we had the following dishes:

  • Basmati and Beluga Lentil Salad served with crispy shallots, yellow tomatoes, cucumbers, pistachios, and an orange vinaigrette. It was a light, refreshing summer salad and a great start to the meal.
  • Green Falafel with garlic tahini (I asked for a side of their garlic hummus, too – AMAZING!
  • Brussels Sprouts with crispy shallots, pumpkin seeds and sherry glaze
  • Black Lime Shrimp served with tomatoes and aleppo pepper.
  • Sea Bass special served with thinly sliced summer squash

We could have easily ordered five other dishes because everything sounded so amazing. We will definitely be back! Make sure you get a reservation, as this place gets quite busy.

The Chicago Diner

The Scoop: Because of its gluten-free options and focus on plant-based eating, The Chicago Diner was recommended by several friends. It’s in a cool artsy area of Chicago that we hadn’t been to and was within walking distance of Wrigley Field, so it was a great stop before the game. The diner is 100% vegetarian and full of vegan and gluten-free options.

What We Ate: I went with the potato tempeh hash, which consisted of crumbled tempeh, sliced potato, roasted red peppers, and onions seasoned with crushed red pepper and fennel seed. I ordered it with scrambled tofu that looked like and actually had the texture of scrambled eggs. Even Bill was surprised and approved of it, and he doesn’t even like tofu. You have to try it. It was so full of flavor and well seasoned. If we weren’t feeling so pleasantly full (but not stuffed) from brunch, we might have gone for one of their signature vegan milkshakes or their vegan and gluten-free cheesecake. Maybe next time!

Summer House Santa Monica

The Scoop: Our host at the Thompson Hotel recommended this place and we were so glad he did! What a beautiful spot. You feel like you’ve been transported to California and are hanging out in a Santa Monica summer house! It was about a mile and a half from Wrigley Field and served as our post-Cubs game meal. We had a fantastic experience and can’t say enough about how the generous and hospitable staff there treated us as we celebrated our anniversary.

What We Ate: We love guacamole but hadn’t had any yet on our trip, so we started with the guac appetizer (freebie as a result of using the Yelp! app!). We shared a few small plates including caramelized Brussels sprouts served with pancetta, whole grain mustard, and balsamic vinegar and the Emerald Kale Salad made with shredded brussels sprouts, local apples, toasted cashews, and mustard-citrus dressing. We also shared the wood-grilled fish taco platter served with black beans and rice, cilantro, salsa, and guacamole. Everything was on point, and even though we were full by the end, we each snagged a cookie from their pastry bar on our way out. They have a talented pastry chef onsite, who also happens to make gluten-free and dairy-free cookies as well, so I got the chocolate walnut cookie, which tasted just like a brownie. It was decadent and no one would possibly know it was gluten and dairy-free. 

The Little Beet Table

The Scoop: We checked out one of these on a recent trip to NYC, and after scoping out the menu, we decided to go there for our final brunch. We got there just as they were opening, so we were served quickly and had a wonderful experience. It helps that the restaurant is 100% gluten-free, which meant my options for ordering were endless!

What We Ate: We started with their banana bread served with housemade hazelnut butter. Oh my goodness. We ate the whole thing. If you can’t tell that I have a deep affinity for Brussels sprouts, you’ll know that now because we ordered them for the third time in one week – roasted Brussels sprouts served with salsa verde and sea salt. For our main entree, Bill had the avocado toast with bacon (some of the best he said he has ever had – perfectly cooked bacon), and I opted for something out of the ordinary – crispy spirulina rice. It was a round of jasmine rice served with shishito peppers, garlic, soy, ginger and topped with a farm egg. It was one of my top three favorite meals of the entire week. Perfectly seasoned, packed with flavor and fun textures, and covered with a sauce that put it over the top, this meal was a winner.

Brightwok Kitchen

The Scoop: This was our final food stop in Chicago and definitely the right choice. Brightwok Kitchen is a veggie-focused, Asian-inspired restaurant. Think of Chipotle for Asian food or sweetgreen for salads and add some on-the-spot wok preparation, and you’ve got Brightwok Kitchen.

What We Ate: It was hard to decide what to get, but I went with the Earth, Curry and Fire bowl served with chili coconut curry (I asked for mild), brown rice, tofu, kale, onions, carrots, bell peppers, and a crispy egg on top. Bill ordered the Everyday Eat Right Bowl with thai basil dressing – holy flavorville! That thing was the best. With so many options, many of which are gluten-free, you can’t go wrong!

What We Did

So, it might seem like all we do on vacation is eat, but we also love to explore new places. I’ve listed below some of the places we went to and things we did. Feel free to click each title to be linked to the website, so you can learn more.

For more recommendations in and around Chicago, visit Time Out Chicago Magazine.

  • Allyu Spa: Bill took me here for our anniversary for their couples retreat package complete with a 90-minute couple’s massage and sauna treatment. It was incredibly relaxing and one of the highlights of my week.
  • Wrigley Field: If you’re in Chicago, go see a Cubs game. It was the first time in years that I’d been in a full stadium (the Orioles are pretty terrible!), and the fans there are passionate and die hard. The chant they sing at the end when they win and the real organ that plays at each game are worth the price of admission!
  • Wendella Architectural Boat Tour: You absolutely have to go on one of these if you are in Chicago. Our tour guide was entertaining and incredibly knowledgable as he taught us about the history and architecture of the city. There are other boat tour companies that you can get deals to on Groupon.
  • Millennium Park and Cloud Gate: This is where you’ll find the famous reflective bean, tons of green space and outdoor events happening throughout the summer. 
  • The Escape Game Chicago: This was one of the coolest escape rooms we’ve ever been to. We did Gold Rush by ourselves and got out with 13 minutes to spare and teamed up with another group to escape Mission Mars. I highly recommend this place for an hour of fun!
  • The Great Escape Room Chicago: Can you tell we are a bit addicted to escape rooms? This one was one of the most unique experiences we’ve had. We did the Sherlock Library and escaped with under two minutes to spare!
  • CIBC Theater: We had to see the broadway show, Hamilton. It was amazing. The music is stuck in our heads days later. Go if you can!
  • io Improv: The improvised Shakespeare shows are phenomenal. A member of the audience gives the cast the title of a play and in 60 minutes, the actors come up with a completely improvised play. It was so fun and full of laughs.
  • Navy Pier: This is the most visited spot in Chicago and for good reason. It was one of the first places we walked to when we arrived in the city and offered a beautiful view of the city. From the new ferris wheel to the botanical garden and award-winning theater, it’s a spot you won’t want to pass by on a trip to Chicago.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo: We stopped by the zoo for about an hour or so before heading out on the boat tour, so we didn’t see much, but going to the monkey house was enough for me! I could watch the monkeys and gorillas for hours. The best part about the zoo? Admission is FREE!
  • Division Street Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from May-October. From the gluten-free crepes to the dozens of produce and flower vendors, this is worth a stop on a Saturday!

Where We Stayed

I have to admit. We did it up with hotels this trip. We usually stay in Airbnbs for the bulk of our trips and use Hotels.com or HotelTonight to book one night. I had a connection in Chicago who was kind enough to help me coordinate our stay at two of Chicago’s best hotels in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Both were in the best absolute best locations.

  • Thompson Hotel: Nicholas, who was at the front desk, gave us great recommendations for where to eat, including Summer House Santa Monica. We also had a treat in our room on our anniversary sent by a colleague, so that was a special touch!
  • The Talbott Hotel: We were warmly greeted by Perry when we arrived at The Talbott, which is run by the same group as the Thompson. Perry made us feel so welcomed and special, and he is one of the kindest people I’ve met and always had a smile on his face. We received two free drink coupons and food vouchers upon arrival and had a lovely stay for our final three nights of the trip.

I highly recommend both of these hotels! If you’re looking for regions to stay, try for east of Route 90 and North of Roosevelt Road. There’s a lot going on in North Chicago as well, like in the Lakeview area, but it’ll be a little more of a drive to the heart of downtown.

Reader Feedback

That’s a wrap, my friends! A labor of love to share with you all of the greatness and deliciousness we found on our trip to Chicago. Feel free to chime in with anything we’re missing 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 🙂

The Ultimate Guide to the Best Dairy-Free Chocolate Bars

One of the things I love to do on this blog and on social media is give you recommendations for the best products to buy to help you save time (and money!) at the grocery store. I’ve been wanting to write today’s post for years but never took the time to do it, but with Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought now was the perfect time!

I consider myself to be a qualitarian, which is just a fancy term coined by Dr. Mark Hyman that means consuming the highest quality foods and ingredients possible, as often as possible. If you haven’t checked out my food philosophy to learn more about my approach to eating, you can find it here.

When it comes to quality, I’m not just talking about fresh, organic fruits and veggies. Every food counts.

Including chocolate 🙂

That’s why I look for chocolate that has been fairly traded, has a short and simple ingredient list, and is organic (just like the other plant-based foods I consume!). Each of the brands I recommend have dairy-free options and many of their bars are gluten-free. Spoiler alert! Dove, Hershey’s, Lindt, and Ghirardelli aren’t on the list.

It’s time to upgrade your chocolate!

Believe it or not, only 5% of the world’s chocolate is made in a way that respects the humans who grow the beans and environment. Here’s one of my favorite videos from Equal Exchange about why fair trade matters. It’ll open your eyes and give you the nudge you need to upgrade your chocolate the next time you’re at the store.

Supporting a company that exists for a noble purpose, other than just making money, is one of the most important ways you can vote with your dollars. Every decision makes a difference and has the potential to impact the life of someone you may never meet, so buy consciously.

I opt for 70%+ dark chocolate to maximize the health benefits, but start lower if you’re not used to it yet. Your taste buds will adapt! The longer you let the dark chocolate melt in your mouth, the more the enzymes in your mouth activate the sugar in the chocolate to make it taste sweeter and more pleasant.

By the end of today’s post, I bet you’ll have the urge to make a grocery store run and stock up on some chocolate bliss 🙂

Pure Chocolate by Jinji

This is my #1 chocolate choice. Even though it’s mostly truffles and other treats and not mainly bars, I had to include it.

About four years ago, I discovered this gem in the heart of Baltimore and befriended the muse behind the magic, Jinji Fraser. It’s been voted Best Chocolate in Baltimore, so I’m not alone in my love for these raw, vegan chocolates.

I wrote a whole blog post about their chocolate and her story a few years ago, but the good news is that you don’t have to be local to Baltimore to enjoy her bliss-filled treats.

Where to Buy: For a full selection, visit the storefront in Belvedere Square Market. You can also find Jinji chocolate products in stores. Learn more about her Cacao Crossings subscription service to bring them to your home.

Charm School Chocolate

Another Baltimore-based brand that’s making its way around the U.S., this 100% dairy-free, vegan chocolate line includes milk, dark, and while chocolate bars. On their website the meticulous process by which their chocolate is made. It’s clear how much love and intention goes into each batch, from bean to bar. I love how incredibly smooth this chocolate is and how it melts in your mouth and coats your tongue.

Some of their flavors include Vanilla Bean White, Coconut Milk Chocolate, 70% Dark Belize, Vanilla Bean Rice Crisp, and Coconut Milk Chocolate Maple Pecan. Depending on the season, they release limited edition bars like Caramel Malt and Black Sesame.

Where to Buy: Buy them on their website or find where they are sold near you here.

Equal Exchange

A few years ago when I had the opportunity to speak at the WELCOA National Training Summit in Orlando, I did an activity with all of the attendees and invited them to savor a piece of dark chocolate. The company whose chocolate I used was Equal Exchange. This chocolate is some of the smoothest and creamiest out there.

Equal Exchange puts people and the plant before profits and elevates the sourcing of their ingredients. Their organic cacao and sugar are sourced directly from small-scale farmers co-operatives in Latin America.

With flavors like Dark Chocolate Mint, Dark Chocolate Almond, Dark Chocolate Orange, Dark Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate Lemon Ginger with Black Pepper and cacao content ranging from 55% to 88%, there is something for everyone, no matter where you are on the chocolate preference continuum.

Where to Buy: Find them online on their website or in stores. Locally, I’ve found Equal Exchange at MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Giant.

Alter Eco

These are some of my favorite bars and other chocolate treats. Not only do they have a wide variety of chocolate bars, but they also make decadent truffles and chocolatey clusters.

If the description below doesn’t make you want to try one of their treats, I don’t know what will 🙂

Plucked from organic trees in the Peruvian Amazon and Ecuadorian Coast, our cacao beans journey to the base of the Andes Mountains, where they are transformed into some of the world’s finest cocoa products. The final destination is Switzerland, where expert chocolatiers craft our unique and habit-forming bars and truffles.

Their cacao beans from Ecuador and Peru, and their products are always fair trade, organic, non-GMO and never made with soy lecithin (a common ingredient in chocolate bars that acts as an emulsifier).

Some of their dairy-free options include Dark Salted Almonds, Deep Dark Sea Salt, Super Blackout (90% cacao!), Dark Quinoa, Dark Cacao, Dark Almond, and Dark Mint. All of their chocolate bars (except Dark Salt & Malt), truffles, quinoa pouches, and rice pouches are Gluten-Free Certified.

Where to Buy: Buy them online or use their store locator to find where they are sold near you.

Goodio

I first found out about this company at the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore and fell in LOVE with their Chai flavor. The company was started in Helsinki, Finland by Jukka, who used to work for the gaming company that created Angry Birds. On a quest to optimize his own health, he ditched dairy products and started adding raw cacao and noticed significant changes in how he felt.

Goodio’s cacao is sourced from South American and African farms. What I love is the company’s commitment to sustainability and integrity. As their founder said, “There has to be greater transparency in where our food comes from, how it’s sourced, and how it’s treated.”

I couldn’t agree more!

All of their chocolate bars are vegan and made from raw cacao that is stone ground in Helsinki for three days. Here’s a quick look at their story.

Goodio brings unique flavor combinations through their bars, including Chai (my #1), Ginger and Lemongrass, Wild Blueberry, and Cranmary. They also have some familiar staples like Mint, Coffee, Sea Salt, and 80% dark Peruvian (Nacional), among others.

Where to Buy: Use their store locator to find where they are sold near you. I buy them at MOMs Organic Market in Maryland.

Hu Chocolate

Last summer, Bill and I went to NYC for a long weekend and hit up Hu Kitchen, a paleo restaurant, about three times. We had to grab one of their paleo, vegan chocolate bars while we were there, and I’m glad that we can find them closer to where I live, too.

Their dark chocolate is stone ground organic and fair trade, and it contains NO dairy, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), emulsifiers, soy lecithin, gluten, refined sugar, cane sugar or sugar alcohols.

They have fun flavors (some with punny names), including Why the Fig Nut?, Almond Butter and Puffed Quinoa, Cashew Butter and Vanilla Bean, Salty, Vanilla Quinoa Qrispy, Hazelnut Butter, Crunchy Mint, Crunchy Banana and Simple Dark Chocolate.

Where to Buy: Find them online and in health food stores near you. We buy them locally at MOMs Organic Market.

Eating Evolved

All of their products are certified organic, dairy free, gluten-free, paleo, and vegan, and they don’t contain any additives. They use coconut sugar as their sweetener of choice, which has a lower glycemic effect than other sugars. In addition to selling yummy chocolate products, they also have dozens of free recipes on their site that use them.

They sell dark chocolate bars and coconut butter cups (Caramel Sea Salt, Banana Cream, Mint Cream and Strawberries and Cream) as well as chocolate bars with flavors like 72% Signature Dark, Almond Sea Salt, Crunchy Caramel, Midnight Coconut, Cashew Milk, and Cashew Milk and Almonds. Their recently released Keto Cups (high fat) are likely to be popular, too, considering the popularity of that trend.

Where to Buy: Find them online and in stores like MOMs Organic Market and Whole Foods Market, or use their store locator to find them where you live.

Salazon Chocolate Co.

With Jinji, Charm School and Salazon Chocolates all originating within a half hour of where I live, I feel like one lucky woman 🙂 Fortunately, you don’t have to live in Baltimore to buy their products!

Salazon’s 100% USDA organic, Fair Trade certified, Hispaniola cacao beans sourced from CONACADO, a democratically run cooperative of small-scale producers in the Dominican Republic. These farmers grow their cacao using sustainable practices and put great care into their work.

These bars are gluten-free but are made in a facility that also handles peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy and milk, so if you are super sensitive, be aware of that. All of the bars are vegan except for the Sea Salt & Caramel Bar. Here’s a peek at some of their flavors: 57% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt; with Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar; with Sea Salt and Black Pepper; with Sea Salt and Coffee. 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almonds, with Sea Salt and Coconut; with Sea Salt and Cayenne; with Sea Salt; with Sea Salt & Orange Zest.

They recently rebranded, so be on the lookout for their new packaging the next time you need a chocolate fix.

Where to Buy: Buy them online or find them near you using their store locator.

Theo

Theo’s model is based on a core idea – chocolate can be made in a way that allows everyone in the bean to bar process to thrive.

Now that’s the kind of company I want to support. Theo was the first organic, fair trade certified chocolate maker in North America, and they remain committed to pushing the industry forward today. To learn more about what makes Theo different, click here.

A few of their gluten-free, dairy-free options include: Black Rice Quinoa Crunch 85% Dark, Coconut 70% Dark, Raspberry 70% Dark, Salted Almond 70% Dark, and Ginger 70% Dark. I also love their Salted Dark Chocolate Almond Butter and Peanut Butter Cups, which are vegan as well.

Where to Buy: Online on the Theo website and in stores like MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Giant, and other natural food stores.

Divine

Divine Chocolate is co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. As owners, they get a share in the profits, a say in the company, and a voice in the global marketplace.

Flavors include 85% Dark Chocolate, 70% Dark Chocolate and Mint Dark Chocolate; Dark Chocolate with Pink Himalayan Salt; Dark Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt; 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries; Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Truffle; 70% Dark Chocolate with Ginger and Orange; Dark Chocolate with Almonds; Dark Chocolate with Mango and Coconut; Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Raisins; Dark Chocolate with Hazelnuts and Cranberries.

Where to Buy: On their website, Whole Foods Market, Amazon, Walgreens, Giant, and some Target stores.

Endangered Species

If you care deeply about the environment, especially about wild life, you may want to switch your chocolate to this company.

10% of our net profits are donated annually to current 10% GiveBack Partners; each is guaranteed a minimum annual donation of $10,000 and is free to use the funds on projects they deem most important. With over $1.3 million generated in the past three years alone, each chocolate purchase adds up to big support that helps wildlife thrive.

They are the first American-made chocolate using fully traceable fair trade beans from West Africa.

Here are a few of their dark chocolate flavors: Sea Salt and Almonds; Forest Mint; Peppermint Crunch, Lemon Poppy Seed; Cinnamon, Cayenne and Cherries; Cacao Nibs; and 72% Dark Chocolate.

Where to Buy: Buy them at one of these online retailers or at MOMs Organic Market, Giant, Wegmans, Whole Foods, and other natural food stores.

Green & Black

“Green symbolizes our commitment to always sourcing ethical cocoa. Black stands for our high quality and the delicious intensity of our chocolate.”

This company’s new signature Pure Dark Chocolates are sourced through Cocoa Life, a holistic, third-party verified cocoa sustainability program, that will invest over $400 million by 2022 to empower over 200,000 cacao farmers.

Their organic flavors include Mint Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Currant Dark Chocolate, Ginger Dark Chocolate, Maya Gold Dark Chocolate, and 70-85% Cacao Dark Chocolate.

Where to Buy: Find them online and in stores like MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Giant.

And this last one doesn’t align with the fair trade model (as far as I know), so it’s not one of my personal top pics, but it is an option for diabetics because it has zero impact on blood sugar 🙂

Lakanto Chocolate

If you or someone you know struggles with blood sugar control or are consuming no added sugar in your diet, the monk fruit and erythritol-sweetened chocolate from Lakanto could be an option for you. It’s diabetic-friendly because it scores zero on the glycemic index due to its combination of sugar-free sweeteners. This chocolate is also vegan, gluten-free, keto, and paleo-friendly!

I’m confirming the sourcing of their beans (whether they meet the same standards as the bars above!), but for someone who wants chocolate without the impact of sugar, give these bars a try. The three varieties are 55% chocolate plain, with almonds and with cacao nibs.

Where to Buy: Find them online.

Aaaand that’s a wrap, my friends! This post was a labor of love, so I hope it helps you and those you love upgrade your chocolate to the best you can buy. Feel free to leave a comment below about your favorites and about any that I may be missing and should consider.

New Series: “I’m Into It!”

I’ve been away on vacation since late last week in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. My family has a house up here, and we have spent part of every summer up here since I was a little girl. It’s my little slice of heaven on earth. 

Spending time away from all of the distractions and pressures of everyday life is always so restorative for me. My creative juices start flowing and I’m drawn to write again, something I love to do but don’t often make time for at home. As I open up space and give my mind permission to wander, all sorts of new ideas come to me, including what I’m sharing today!

Over the past few years, I’ve also found that people frequently ask me about my recommendations for a variety of things – from food brands and supplements to books, gadgets, bloggers, recipes and words of inspiration. I thought it would be helpful to do a biweekly recap (that feels reasonable to start!) of what I’m exploring and post it on my blog, to share with all of you!

I’ll try to keep it simple and share with you maybe three to five things every other week in a series called, “I’m Into It”.

I’m excited to start inviting you into my world more regularly and taking some of the headache out of the decision-making process for you. I’ll put some affiliate links in the post to support my blogging activities, but I will never in a million years promote something I don’t use myself and believe in, so you have my word that it’s legit if it’s on here!

For those of you who are new to my blog (welcome!), you’ll notice that all of my products recommendations are gluten-free, dairy-free and focus on simple ingredients that we can pronounce and find in the store. To learn more about my personal food philosophy, check out this post I wrote earlier this year.

I will be sharing these posts on the weekend, but I was so ready to get moving that I’m going to give you the first one today, on a Tuesday 🙂 

Let’s dive in to the very FIRST post in this fun new series.

Book: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

“The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget.”

As I shared in my most recent post, I’ve been healing from Epstein-Barr Virus and taking steps to restore my immune system after a lifetime of pushing myself too hard. I connected immediately with this passage from the book about the process of healing.

Grab your tissues. In this heart-reaching story of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon whose life takes a sudden turn when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer, you’ll be taken on a journey of joy, inspiration and sadness. The story is an inspiring testament to the power of the human spirit and the importance of leaving a legacy.

Read It: Order it here.

Supplement: Vital Proteins Collagen Proteins

My sister, Jane, did her third Ironman triathlon in Lake Placid, New York this past Sunday, which marks the 10th time someone in my family has completed the grueling 140.6-mile race.

In the days leading to the race, we always scope out the scene at the Ironman Village, where the athletes check in and amass a collection of Ironman gear and performance-enhancing products.

I was excited to spot the Vital Proteins booth as I wandered through the village.

I’m a fan of their products for a few reasons. They prioritize quality and purity in their products. They source from grass-fed and pasture-raised animals. My favorite product, collagen peptides, contain only one ingredient, mix easily into smoothies and liquids and are flavorless and odorless. One serving contains a whopping 20 grams of pure protein, which contributes to feelings of fullness and staves off cravings. I also use their bone broth and tried their newer line of collagen beauty water (lavender lemon, cucumber aloe or melon mint), which was refreshing and delicious! 

Try It: Order Vital Proteins products here.

Product: Numi Organic Tea – Gratitude

I have a little bit of an obsession with and a growing collection of herbal teas. Drinking herbal tea is a quick and easy way to boost your immune system, balance your mood, and promote healing by reducing inflammation. The exact combination of herbs and spices determines which purpose a particular tea serves, but I was so drawn to this one because of the name of the tea (Gratitude!) and the specific blend of ingredients.

Anti-viral licorice, anti-inflammatory turmeric, calming chamomile, and libido-boosting maca (a Peruvian herb from the cruciferous veg family) are just a few of the supercharged ingredients in this amazing tea. Holy basil, tulsi and ashwaganda are three additional ingredients that have adaptogenic qualities. Adaptogens (notice the root word, “adapt”) help our body respond better to stress by promoting a sense of balance and calm. You can get all of them in supplement form, but why not just drink a cozy cup of tea instead?

Try It: Order online here or buy in person at The Vitamin Shoppe and at some Whole Foods Markets.

And that’s a wrap! I’d love to hear from you if you’ve used any of these products or read the book, When Breath Becomes Air.

Meet Crunchy Kat: Living Well Made Easy

For the past three and a half years, I’ve written every single post on this blog. I love sharing what I’m learning and creating, but I also have a desire to build community in a more intentional way. For that reason, I’m going to start introducing you to some amazing people I’ve connected with along my journey, so you can get to know them and what they have to offer, too. These are people I align with philosophically and people who bring hope, light, nourishment and passion to the world with the goal of making it a better place.

My hope is that you will connect with these great people, too, and follow their work to learn about different aspects of health, wellbeing and nutrition that I may not cover. We’re better together 🙂

I’m excited to introduce you to my friend and fellow blogger, Kat Downs from Crunchy Kat. I think you’ll really love her and will be inspired to check out the cool work she is doing, too. Here she is!

I first met Rachel at a Swapfoods Swapple tasting back in February, and I could immediately tell she was someone I wanted to get to know. So when she asked if I wanted to write a guest post for her blog, I was pumped!

In getting to know Rachel, it’s clear we have a lot in common. I love Rachel’s post on her food philosophy because mine is almost exactly the same!

I launched Crunchy Kat in August 2016, but I’ve been learning about health and wellness for more than five years. I’ve always had an interest in food and nutrition, even though I’m not a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist. I’m an average person and a former athlete, and by all accounts, I was a fairly healthy person. But I’ve noticed that I feel so much better when I feed my body real food.
I didn’t always used to be like this though.

I’ve always loved food, but it’s taken me awhile to refine my eating habits, and it’s still a work in process. I’ve realized that I feel better when I eat a mostly gluten-free, dairy-free diet, but it’s sometimes hard to make those choices.

I’m the first one to admit that I like to streamline things in the kitchen.I believe food and cooking shouldn’t be complicated, so on Crunchy Kat I talk a lot about eating real food with simple ingredients. You’ll never find me whipping up a 12-course meal all day on a Saturday. That’s just not my thing! I’m all about simple, healthful recipes that are quick and easy. Click the picture below for some of my favorite salad dressing recipes!

I love thinking about where our food comes from and how it sustains us. I also love researching information about what’s in the products we put in our bodies and on our skin. I’d been spending so much of my free time finding better food and beauty products that I decided to share what I was learning with others.
My goal is to take the work out of it for you and offer solutions I’ve found. I know how confusing and overwhelming it can be to eat well, so I want to bring healthy products and options to people who don’t have time to do the research themselves. I want to help people make good choices when it comes to food.

One of my favorite things is to do is grocery shop or visit a farmer’s market. I love exploring the grocery aisles for new products and dreaming about how I can incorporate them into my next meal.

I like offering easy-to-follow recipes for people who may not have the energy to think about their next meal. Because of that, experimentation in the kitchen is something that excites me, but I know not everyone has time for that. That’s one of the reasons I started Crunchy Kat.

Some of my favorite things to experiment with are smoothies (like this cherry banana almond butter smoothie), energy bites (like these coffee cacao bites), easy weeknight meals (like this cauliflower fried rice), and homemade dairy-free milks (like this coconut milk). And you can always find me posting impromptu recipes on my Instagram account.

Would you try any of these recipes? I’d love to know which ones you might like to try! Thanks for letting me hang out with you today! 🙂

What We Eat: A Peek at Our Weekly Menu

I’ve had people ask time and time again what a typical week of eating looks like for me and Bill. Every week is different, but I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what last week and the upcoming week consisted of for our meals.

I tend to make a combination of my own recipes from this blog and often look to the Nourishing Meals Cookbook, The Undiet CookbookForks Over Knives: The Cookbook or one of Rebecca Katz’s many healing cookbooks, with a recent focus on The Longevity Kitchen Cookbook

We pretty much follow Michael Pollan’s advice to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Sometimes I’m a little off on the “not too much” part, if I’m being completely honest, but we prioritize eating real food made from ingredients we recognize and can pronounce. The vast majority of what we eat, especially for me, consists of plant-based foods like veggies, fruit, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, and we load up on herbs and spices for flavor. I do eat some animal proteins a couple of times a week, usually wild caught fish or pasture-raised chicken or eggs.

My husband Bill’s German heritage demands a higher animal protein ratio than what I eat. He just feels better eating a bit more of it than me! That’s why I’m such a huge advocate of listening to your body and paying attention to what gives you energy and what takes it away. I encourage you to experiment with different foods to see which ones make you feel best. For more on my philosophy around food and eating, check out this recent post.

Okay, now let’s get back to the food. Want to know what a week of breakfast, lunch and dinner looks like for us? Check out the list below!

Breakfast

Because I’m on a healing foods protocol through my nutritionist, as I’m restoring my body from Epstein-Barr Virus, I’m not eating certain things that Bill eats on a regular basis, like eggs. He loves making breakfast and puts in a lot of work each morning. A typical breakfast for him consists of roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed onions and tomatoes or peppers, and an egg, usually served on or with a Swapple, which is one of my favorite freezer staples as well. We also like Bilinski’s casing-free, real food chicken sausage, especially the kale balsamic version!

I usually have a smoothie because it’s the easiest way to pack a lot of goodness into one glass (or smoothie bowl!). I’ve been opting for blueberries as my main fruit because of how antioxidant-packed they are. I alternate which fats I use, including coconut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and avocado. I usually throw in a handful of baby spinach or baby kale and round out everything with a scoop of protein powder or an extra sprinkle of hemp seeds.

I’ll have to share the smoothie I’ve been making lately, so you have the recipe, but this Blueberry Blast Smoothie is pretty similar!

I absolutely LOVE the Oat Berry Yogurt Muffin recipe from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook and have been serving that with Trader Joe’s mixed nut butter. I also tried the Detoxinista’s Vegan Almond Flour Banana Bread. It’s RICH and pretty hearty, since it’s made with almonds as the base, but I really liked the flavors!

Lunch & Dinner

To be honest, lunch and dinner don’t look that different for us. I almost always have a big salad for lunch as my base and often serve up leftovers from dinner for lunch because it makes things easier and saves us time. I’m a big advocate of making grain or salad bowls, which basically consists of throwing together some cooked and raw veggies (focus on leafy greens!), some source of protein (usually beans), something crunchy like nuts or seeds, and a grain like quinoa or brown rice if I’m making a grain bowl. I top it all off with a dressing and toss everything together.

As much as I love to cook, sometimes I need something nourishing when I haven’t planned ahead and packed. When I’m on the go, some of my favorite places to hit up are Stall11 at RHouse, sweetgreen, Harmony Bakery, the Naked Lunch Cafe, and Whole Foods Market hot bar and salad bar. I link to all of those places and others in my healthy foodie dining guide to Baltimore.

Here’s what we’ve been cooking up lately!

That’s a look at some of what we’ve been cooking up in our kitchen lately. We stick with some of our favorite familiar staples and try a few new ones here and there.

How about you? What’s on your menu? Try anything new lately? Feel free to share in the comments below! I love trying new recipes 🙂

HEX Ferments: The Difference, The Flavor & The Future

This is the second part in a two-part series. Did you miss the first post? To learn about the start, the art and the heart of HEX Ferments, click here

I had the privilege of interviewing Meaghan Carpenter, one of the founders and owners of HEX Ferments, a fermented food and drink company located in Baltimore. I was drawn to her story because of how her company embodies the core of my food philosophy – to connect with our food, where it comes from and how it makes us feel; to savor our food, prioritizing quality and taking time to enjoy it; and to nourish our bodies with vibrant, life-giving food.

The Difference

So, what makes HEX Ferments different than other fermented foods and drink companies? Meaghan had a lot to say about that and was passionate about the quality of what they create.

We source and ferment for peak flavor. […] We work with layering flavor. Our staff are all trained in the culinary field. We’ve hired people that know how to work with flavor. We don’t use a lot of dried spices. We use a lot of fresh herbs and spices and we source from local farms for about 90% of our produce. That helps us to get the foods that are the freshest and at the peak of their flavor and nutritional profile.

The health benefits of HEX’s products vary greatly from most products on the market, especially in the case of something like pickles. Most pickles on the market are made with vinegar, which acts as a preservative to make them more shelf stable. It’s used as an instant acidifier.

hex-picklesUnfortunately, most vinegars are denatured or killed, so the nutritional benefits of fermented food are lost; there’s no probiotic component to vinegar pickles. The way HEX produces their products preserves the nutritional integrity and gives us the host of benefits we expect.

HEX naturally ferments their products through the process of lactic acid fermentation, which creates the beneficial microbes that characterize pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi. The next time you’re in the market for a jar of pickles or sauerkraut, make sure you read the label. You want it to be a “living food” with live cultures, no heat and no vinegar.

Not only does HEX prioritize using high quality ingredients and best in class fermentation practices, but they are also particular about the vessels in which they make their products. Unlike most large companies, they don’t use plastic barrels lined with plastic to ferment. When you’re creating a food that acidifies itself, you’re creating a lot of microbes that are really powerful that can eat away at plastic. Because of that concern, the team at HEX ferments in stainless steel, which also helps to keep their products tasting the same as well. That is considered the gold standard for how to ferment.

What I was surprised to learn next gave me another reason to take pride in having HEX Ferments as one of our own. They are the only fermented food company in the U.S. that makes and sells everything at their storefront. This gives their customers a unique experience and the ability to taste and smell everything and talk to the people who have a hand in making the food.

The Flavor

People often come up to the stand and aren’t shy about their feelings toward fermented foods, “I hate sauerkraut.”

Instead of being flustered or offended, Meaghan responds gently, “I’m sorry to hear that. That just means you haven’t had really good sauerkraut. You can learn to like sour.”

If you’re new to fermented foods, it can take a little while to adapt to their naturally sour taste, but Meaghan gave me some suggestions that could help.

  • Pickles are a great way to start because most of us are already familiar with them and have tried them before. Try some cucumber pickles or other pickled vegetables.
  • Try kombucha. It’s an easy entry point because it often has a bit of sweetness to balance the sour, and people tend to like its fizziness.
  • Their carrot confetti made with pickled carrots is a good starter and converted a former sauerkraut hater into a weekly customer.
  • Mix and eat things like sauerkraut with food. If you eat salad, instead of adding dressing, take a few tablespoons of the kraut, chop it up, mix it into your salad and add some olive oil.
A few bottles of HEX's brightly colored kombucha

A few bottles of HEX’s brightly colored kombucha

So, how much sauerkraut should you eat? What amount of kombucha is best to drink?

Start small. Keep in mind it is a living food and you’re introducing billions of bacteria into your system.

Meaghan suggests starting with one tablespoon of kraut or kimchi a day with food (i.e,. chopped up on a salad, as a condiment, mixed in with grains and beans, on a sandwich, etc.) and see how your body reacts. Her stepmother swears by breakfast consisting of an English muffin with peanut butter and HEXs juniper caraway sauerkraut. I can’t say it appealed to me, but Meaghan’s enthusiasm about it might get me to try it!

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Sauerkraut pairs nicely with tacos in this dish with Clavel’s tacos and watermelon radish pickles

For kombucha, Meaghan recommends starting with four to six ounces on an empty stomach in the morning. This has helped her and others with chronic constipation.

As with any food, slow down and pay attention to how your body responds and then increase the amount you’re eating or drinking or stay where you are. Over time, it’s likely you will be able to eat more.

The Shop (Where to Find It!)

To learn more about HEX Ferments and their upcoming events and for locations where you can find their products, check out their website at www.HexFerments.com.

Locally, you can find their products at MOMs Organic Market, Whole Foods, Graul’s, and Eddies Market as well as at the Waverly Farmer’s Market in Baltimore on Saturday mornings.

fullsizerenderIf you’re in the DC area, swing by Each Peach Yes! Organic Market at Capitol Hill, or the Arlington MOMs Organic Market for a jar of their famous kraut or kimchi. Hex also has a presence at the Silver Spring Farmer’s Market and Bethesda Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.

If you’d rather skip the trip to the store or market and order online, you can order their products through Washington Green Grocer, Relay Foods, Hungry Harvest, and Hometown Harvest.

The Future

HEX Ferments is experiencing a ton of growth and will be expanding to a larger production space just down the road from Belvedere Square, where their storefront will remain. They will gain over 1,000 square feet of space.

A sneak peek at the new space

A sneak peek at the new space

They have plans to teach a few workshops in the fall and look forward to introducing more people to the art of fermentation. I’ll be sure to keep you updated about those events through my Facebook page and this blog.

Over the years, Meaghan and Shane have grown to appreciate and embrace all that Baltimore has to offer. They look forward to continuing to build community through HEX Ferments, as they invite us to connect with our food, how it makes us feel and where it comes from; appreciate food as beauty and art; and nourish our bodies with living, healing food that will leave us looking and feeling our best.

Have you tried HEX Ferments products? Do you have a favorite? Feel free to share below!

HEX Ferments: The Start, The Art & The Heart

I had the privilege of interviewing Meaghan Carpenter, one of the founders and owners of HEX Ferments, a fermented food and drink company located in Baltimore.

I was drawn to her story because of how her company embodies the core of my food philosophy – to connect with our food, where it comes from and how it makes us feel; to savor our food, prioritizing quality and taking time to enjoy it; and to nourish our bodies with vibrant, life-giving food.

The Start

What is this place?

Aside from what she had seen in John Waters’ movies, Meaghan Carpenter knew little about Baltimore when she moved here on a whim 12 years ago. The heat and humidity of Charm City in August and her cockroach-infested apartment weren’t the welcome she had anticipated when she picked up her life in Minneapolis to relocate here. She says “a boy” brought her here, but she stayed for a different boy, Shane, who’s now her husband.

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Over the years, Meaghan’s initial impression of Baltimore has faded, as she has grown to appreciate and embrace her new home.

I feel like Baltimore is this really incredible city that is this melting pot that never seems to fully merge. People come from all over the place. But everybody has a pretty strong identity here. It doesn’t feel like a homogenous city at all.

Meaghan always loved food, grew up spending time in the kitchen with her parents, and worked in restaurant kitchens for years but never considered food for a career.  Both she and Shane have been connected to fermented food since childhood. They grew up eating the harvest from their parents’ vegetable gardens and learned the art of canning at a young age (“You can only eat so many cucumbers, zucchini and carrots” Meaghan confessed.).

They were raised eating sour foods, a taste most Americans have not developed. It was their early introduction to sour, fermented foods that would eventually influence the business they formed together nearly four years ago, a fermented food and drink company called HEX Ferments.

When Meaghan was in college, she was part of a natural foods store co-op and learned how to make simple kimchi and sauerkraut. She noticed it helped the digestive issues she had in college that stemmed from her very poor diet. When she started sharing simple meals of rice, beans, steamed veggies and sauerkraut with the co-op staff, she noticed by how much better she felt. She carried that with her and it would come in handy years later.

schlossmanhex0422It would take two transatlantic trips to the U.K. before Meaghan and Shane would delve more deeply into the art of fermentation. Both she and Shane spent some time separately in Ireland, where Shane worked on organic farms in Wales and saw a different side of fermentation – wines, meads and preserved foods – the side most of us are more familiar with here in the States.

It was in Ireland that Meaghan first learned about the sour, tingly, fermented drink called kombucha. She fell in love with it, and as soon as she got back to U.S., she put out a flyer asking who had the culture needed to brew kombucha. Meaghan was in luck. She learned the simple instructions for how to do it and has been making kombucha for the past 15 years, well before the recent kombucha craze started.

Years after Meaghan’s introduction to kombucha, she and Shane quickly realized that when they got together, they loved playing with flavors and having food experiments. They had a garden and had an overabundance of cabbage and decided to make sauerkraut. So Meaghan dug out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz, a book she first learned about through the co-op, and they got to work. Since then, they’ve visited Sandor’s farm in Tennessee and have been mentored by him along with another husband-wife fermentation team from the Cultured Pickle in Berkeley, California.

hexplusculturedI loved what Meaghan had to say about what happened once they embarked on the journey to come together and explore the art of fermentation:

We instantly got rehooked into it all. Once you make fermented foods and you learn about it, there is the potential to get bitten by its mystery and magic, and there’s no turning back. Once you’re hooked into it, that’s it. It’s an obsession. We became totally and immensely obsessed.

Their friends loved what they made and suggested they open a business, but Meaghan and Shane were hesitant. They were enjoying their hobby and didn’t think they wanted to have a business doing it, even though Shane had been in business for himself since the age of 17.

But sometimes your calling finds you, and if you’re meant to do something with your life, it can be nearly impossible to escape. Meaghan was working at a desk job where she was “totally bored”. She was also teaching and making art, but she was not satisfied and found herself researching how to start a fermented foods business. Fueled by their newfound obsession and bolstered by Shane’s entrepreneurial skills, they decided to go for it and start HEX Ferments. It’s been nonstop ever since.

The Art

Meaghan designed the HEX Ferments logo and partnered with a fellow MICA alum to render the logo and set the vision for their brand. The inspiration for the name comes from Hexology folklore, which uses signs and symbols to protect relationships, secure the harvest, and ward off the unwelcome. In the same way, fermented foods protect and support our body, digestion, immune system and overall health and well-being.

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Through her work, Meaghan has the opportunity to combine her two loves – food and art. She doesn’t see a separation between the two and credits her art education at MICA with her visual, creative problem-solving skills, which have served her well in business.

I see what we do as art. We get to play with flavors, and textures, and colors and beautiful objects and we get to put them together and let them slow cook, also known as ‘ferment’.

The inspiration behind unique flavor combinations, like Juniper Caraway Kraut, Carrot Confetti, Lover’s Truce Kimchi, and Butterfly Lime kombucha, often stems from whatever is in season.

The HEX team scours articles, recipes, and books for inspirations as well and considers their experiments a form of play. Meaghan said naming them is like naming a child and she and the team come up with names together.

hex-kraut hex-kraut-jarsFor Valentine’s Day, an abundance of local beets inspired the creation of a complex kimchi called Lover’s Truce. And when Meaghan was given green tea and saffron tea from Afghanistan by her brother-in-law, it wasn’t long before Saffron kombucha was born.

Meaghan flavor preferences vary seasonally, so she didn’t have a go-to kraut or kombucha. If she had to pick, the plain sauerkraut that is currently at the peak of its ripeness and the Carrot Juniper kombucha were at the top of her list.

Customer buying habits are more particular. Some customers shop by color (i.e., “I only buy things that are red.”) while others have their standby flavors like Garlic Oregano and never waver from them. At times, Meaghan and Shane will come up with make something that’s “super crazy” in a small batch, and people will eat it up and come back months later looking for it. They like to keep things fresh, fun and seasonal.

The Heart

When I have the opportunity to talk to people about food and hear their story, what I gravitate toward most is their food philosophy and the language they use around food.

My approach toward food is to invite people to be curious about eating – to connect with why we eat, how it makes us feel and where our foods comes from; to savor food and make eating a joyful experience; and to nourish our bodies with energizing, life-giving, real food, so we can look and feel our best.

When I asked Meaghan about her philosophy around food, I discovered that we share a similar approach and both prioritize being connected to our food along with nourishment:

I see food in different levels. I see food as culture. I see food as commodity and food as nourishment. The level that we operate in is all three. HEX sees food and our food system in a holistic approach. We need to address the entire system of what brings food, nourishment and culture to our plate.

I couldn’t agree more.

It’s a privilege to have a company right here in my hometown that is so committed to upholding the integrity of their food and nourishing people every day.

Stay tuned for the second post in this series to learn more about what makes HEX’s products different from everything else on the market, get some tips for how to incorporate these foods into your diet, and get a sneak peek at some plans for HEX’s future.

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