Category Archives: habits


Top tips for clean eating

Three Top Tips For Clean Eating

What is clean eating?

There’s a lot of media exposure and talk about “clean eating” but what is it exactly? The widely accepted definition is that clean eating means avoiding highly processed foods, refined sugars, and eating a diet rich in whole foods in their most natural state. For fruits and vegetables that means buying organic for The Dirty Dozen. When it comes to animal products, it means buying free-range or pastured with no antibiotics, pesticides, or added hormones.

For some people a clean eating diet also means no gluten.  The challenge with going gluten-free (whether on a clean eating diet or not) is that you need to avoid the gluten-free crutch foods that are scattered all over the grocery store shelves. These highly processed gluten alternatives are not a healthy choice.

1. Start with breakfast

Many people often skip breakfast, possibly because they’re running late or they’re too busy to stop and have a meal. But breakfast is how you fuel your body for the day ahead. If you are going to have breakfast, don’t just choose simple carbohydrates or a fast food option. You want a real food breakfast that will provide healthy fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates.

2. Simple Swaps

  • Hummus is a great alternative to mayonnaise. But instead of being mostly fat, it’s mostly protein. And it has a similar consistency to mayo making it perfect for wraps, dressings, and spreads. If you’re buying it in the store be sure to read the label in order to make sure you are getting the cleanest possible option. Or make it really clean by simply making your own at home.
  • If you’re looking for yogurt it’s easy to be distracted by the fruit-flavored varieties on the dairy case shelves. But the prepared fruit yogurts tend to come with excessively high levels of sugar and may also have other artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, none of which you want on a clean eating plan. Instead choose plain, whole milk yogurt, either regular or Greek-style and add your own sweeteners and flavoring. Options could include fruit, honey, chopped nuts, or delicious spices like cinnamon.
  • Our modern diet has led us to feel that we have to have rice or potatoes or pasta with a meal. We’ve been taught that you “need” a starch. If you feel you still want that to make your meal complete, choose more complex carbohydrates like riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, or simply double up on your veggies. Cauliflower can also be used as a substitute for mashed potatoes without too much extra effort.
  • Salad and dressing seem to naturally go together. Unfortunately, if you take the time to read the label on the back of the bottle it’s not good news. Filled with loads of preservatives and artificial ingredients, these are definitely not part of the clean eating ideal. Instead make your own vinaigrette by combining 1/2 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper, and the herbs or seasonings of your choice.

3. Don’t Do This

Just as important as all the things listed above that you want to do, there are few things that you need to keep in mind to not do:

  • An easy way to clean up your diet is to skip those foods that are most highly processed and offer the least nutrition. That includes white rice, pasta, cookies, crackers, and chips. Choose nutrient-dense foods that will actually support your health like raw nuts, veggies, and quality proteins.
  • Juices, juice drinks, and soft drinks are empty calories. Truthfully they’re nothing more than liquid candy bars. They provide little to no nutritional value and should be avoided. Eat those fruits instead of juicing them so you can enjoy the fiber which helps to slow down how quickly the sugars hit your bloodstream. If you’re thirsty choose water, herbal teas, or home-made green juices instead.
  • We’ve been misled to believe that artificial fats like margarine are good for us. We’ve also been guided towards vegetable fats like canola or corn oil. What you really want is healthy fats like butter, ghee, or beneficial oils like avocado, olive, and coconut. These are nourishing, satiating, and supportive.

As you start your clean eating journey it can be helpful to use a food journal so that you can see the progress that you’re making. It’s also important to remember that it’s not easy to make all of these changes at once. Baby steps are the key to success here. Start with one thing, like eating breakfast or making a healthy swap. Master that and then move on to the next thing. Before you know it you’ll be well versed in what those clean eating choices are and you’ll be focused on your health goals.

Clean eating is a good step towards a healthy life. In fact, it’s one of the #IngredientsForAHealthyLife. If you’re looking to do even more and clean up not just your diet but your lifestyle, be sure to check out the Lean Clean Green subscription box

lotus flower - meditation tips

Ten Tips For Meditation Newbies

Why meditate?

Meditation, especially mindfulness meditation, is getting a lot of attention these days.  As people begin to really understand and accept the idea of a mind-body-wellness connection, this practice is becoming more popular. And studies show that meditation has a wide range of health benefits:

  • reduces stress
  • reduces anxiety
  • increases focus
  • improves self-awareness
  • may help with memory
  • may help reduce addiction and addictive behaviors
  • improves sleep
  • has been shown to help reduce pain

Getting started

Many people can be hesitant or nervous about starting a practice. That’s because most people equate meditation with sitting still for hours, possibly in lotus position (if your knees bend that far), hands in a mudra position, all while chanting Om and clearing your mind of all thought. While that can, as does, work for some people, for many other’s that simply isn’t going to cut it.

We tend to forget that we are all bio-individual human beings.  Mind and body. So just as one particular diet is not going to work for every single human on the face of the planet, there is no one single meditation practice that works for everyone either. It’s important to find a practice that works for you, that means one that you are comfortable with and are willing to continue to practice.

Meditation is not meant to be overwhelming. It can be simple and enjoyable. It can even be something simple like a gratitude practice one to two times per day. If you want to start or improve your meditation practice without stress, however, there are a number of things you need to know. Getting a good start will help you enjoy the process of learning, support you while you find what works for you, and increases your ability to maintain a balanced meditation practice.

Tips for meditating

  1. Start slow Most people seem to think that they need to jump into an extensive practice, meditation for 30 minutes or an hour at a time. It’s better to begin and develop a practice, even a short one, that you can stick with. Starting with even as little as two to three minutes can be a good start. And you’ll feel so good about it that you’ll want to continue.
  2. Stretch first Especially if you’re new to a meditative practice, sitting or lying still, even just for a few minutes, can get, well, a bit fidgety. If you move your body first, stretching, bending, even just jumping in place if that’s what you need to do, you’ll be much more likely to clear your energy enough to be able to be calm for your practice.
  3. Remember to breathe Sometimes the easiest way to get started is to simply focus on your breath. Breathing helps you maintain awareness and connects you to the present. It also allows you to focus on breathing deep into the belly for full relaxation and oxygenation.
  4. Counting helps If you’re having a hard time focusing on your breath you can add a simple counting practice which has the added benefit of creating just a little more awareness.  One popular method is called box breathing. This is where you breathe in for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, breath out for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four.  Repeat.
  5. You’ll still have thoughts Clearing your mind of all thought is extremely difficult. Instead of trying to not think, simply let your mind float. When you have thoughts come up, and they will, acknowledge them. Don’t focus on them thought, simply recognize that they are there and then return your focus to your breath..
  6. Get comfortable You are not required to bend yourself into a pretzel shape in order to achieve some sort of meditative nirvana. If you’re doing a still meditation (which is what most people start with), simply sit or lie comfortably.  Adjust your body to make sure you don’t feel cramped or crooked. Rest your hands comfortable, at your sides, on your belly, on your lap, whatever works for you. Making yourself comfortable first means you won’t get distracted from your practice by discomfort in your body.
  7. Use a timer Especially in the beginning, the temptation is to keep cracking open your eyeballs to peek and see how much time has passed.  Yes, even if you’re just meditation for two minutes.  If you’re not used to it, two minutes can be a long time.  A timer allows you to let go of that concern because once your time it up it lets you know.  You may find yourself surprised at how quickly the time passes when you don’t have to worry about it.
  8. Try meditating multiple times per day By trying different times of the day you’ll find the time that works best for you.  You’ll probably also discover that, especially in the beginning, it’s easier to do 3-4 mini sessions while you work your way up to a longer one. s
  9. Be patient Like anything new, in theory, it would seem that it should be really easy to meditate.  Especially if you’re only doing it for a few minutes. But we’ve become conditioned to always being busy, especially with technology and our always-on social life. It takes time and effort to break this habit. Be kind to yourself, be patient and know that you will get there.
  10. Keep it up Make it a habit to set aside time every day for meditation.  The more you do this the more you’ll come to appreciate the restful break from our overscheduled and busy lives that meditation provides. Don’t push yourself to move too quickly. Simply acknowledge that you are building a new skill, and that takes time.

     Bonus tip

     Unless you’re using one of the meditation apps listed below, be sure to turn off your cellphone so that
     you
are not interrupted while you’re trying to meditate. Even if you are using an app, set it to do not
     disturb so that you won’t be in the middle of a session when your phone goes off.

Meditation resources

There are a number of resources out there that can help you as you learn to build your practice. These include meditation apps and books. Don’t forget to invest in a comfy pair of yoga pants, and maybe even a yoga mat or a zafu meditation pillow, if you’re going to do a more traditional style of meditation.

The beauty of meditation is how many different ways there are to practice it and how easy it can be.  By incorporating a meditation practice into your life you’ll achieve both physical and mental benefits. Using the tips and resources listed above you’ll become skillful at this wonderful practice, developing a healthful habit that you can enjoy for the rest of your life.

Shopping The Perimeter Of The Grocery Store

Is it Safe on the Outside?

There are over 50,000 items for sale in a typical grocery store. The sad truth is that most of them are not food. They are processed conglomerations of ingredients. Because of this, there’s a common myth that if you shop the perimeter of the grocery store you’ll be “safe” from food challenges. More and more people are shopping just the “outside” of the grocery store, convinced that if they avoid what’s in the middle they’re only getting healthy food. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Most grocery stores are set up in a similar pattern. Walk into the produce section which is usually near the bakery or the deli. Moving around the outside edges, the perimeter, of the grocery store you’ll find the fish counter, meat, poultry. The dairy section is at the back of the store. This is because the further into the store you have to walk to buy staple ingredients, such as milk, eggs, and butter, the more time you spend in the store. The longer you are there the more money you are likely to spend. On the inside aisles is where you’ll find all of the packaged, canned, and frozen foods. You often have to walk through them to get from one section to the next, increasing the possibility that you will be tempted by what is in the aisles.

Does It Belong Here?

While the fresh food is usually found on the perimeter of the grocery store it’s important to be aware of two big issues that impact that section of the grocery store. The first is something called product placement or product creep. Grocery stores and food producers are well aware that consumers are purchasing more heavily from the outer edges of the store. Their job, however, is to sell as much as they can. One way they try to influence consumers is by moving in items that would not normally be in a particular section (but that go with those foods).

One example of this would be finding packaged shortcake, glaze for strawberries, and cool whip or some form of canned whipped cream in the produce section at the height of strawberry season. The grocery store may attempt to promote this as being “for your convenience” but the truth is it’s there to tempt you to purchase it and to increase their sales and profits.

Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to read the labels you may get more than you bargained for. That glaze for strawberries, for example, contains genetically modified ingredients, excessive sugars, artificial colors, and possibly MSG. Rather than just getting fresh fruit, if you purchase these add-on items you’re also buying a wide range of chemicals and additives which may be harmful to your health.

This happens all around the grocery store. Salad dressings by the salad, seasoning mixes and marinades by the meat, etc. Product placement is a big factor for grocery stores. As a matter of fact, food manufacturers pay something called a slotting fee to grocery stores to determine where in the store their product will appear. This idea of manipulating the perimeter is a big reason that eggs and dairy are all the way in the back of the store. The grocery chain, and by extension the food manufacturers, are looking to get you to spend as much time in the store as possible and encourage impulse buying. They know that the longer you are there the more you will spend.

What’s In What You’re Eating?

Another major concern with shopping the perimeter of the grocery store is not just what the food items are, but what’s in them. Unfortunately, it’s things that we can’t really see that pose an even bigger challenge to health.

Produce

When shopping in the produce department the second thing you need to be aware of is the Dirty Dozen. Those twelve fruits and vegetables which are highly contaminated by pesticides. Eating them increases the toxic body burden. This list changes each year as the Environmental Working Group evaluates the current state of pesticides and toxins used to grow produce. The only way to avoid the toxic burden of the Dirty Dozen is to purchase organic for those twelve fruits and vegetables. To make it easy to remember the list (and stay on top of the changes) simply download the Environmental Working Group’s free app, EWG Healthy Living (ios and android).

Meat and Poultry

In the meat and poultry section buying organic is your best choice. Conventionally raised animals are given high levels of antibiotics, partially to keep them healthy in spite of the crowded conditions they are raised in. It’s also because these antibiotics act as a growth stimulator. Unfortunately, the antibiotics are passed on through the to end product when we then wind up consuming them. It’s important to note that the overuse of antibiotics in farming has led to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bugs. Conventionally raised animals are also allowed to be raised on genetically modified (GM) feed which is often heavily laden with pesticides. These items can have an impact on your body as well as affecting the environment. Note that the term “natural” is not the same as organic. Although there are some rules around the natural label when it comes to meat products, this label still allows for the use of GM/pesticide-laden feed. The only way to avoid added hormones, pesticides, and genetic modification is to choose organic.

Dairy

The dairy section is another area of concern. Not only because of the antibiotics, GM feed, and high levels of pesticides found in conventionally sourced dairy products, but also because of added hormones. rBST sometimes referred to as rBGH, is a growth hormone which causes cows to produce more milk. Studies have shown that dairy with rBGH tends to have more Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). This, in turn, has been linked to cancer, specifically of the breast, prostate and gastrointestinal tract. Although it is possible to do the research and avoid dairy with added hormones if it is conventionally raised all of the other issues still remain. Once again, choosing organic is the best, healthiest option.

Summary

  • Be on the lookout for product creep — items that are in a category where they don’t belong
  • Be mindful of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetable, buying organic for those choices
  • Choose organic meats to avoid added hormones and antibiotics
  • Avoid added hormones and antibiotics in dairy products by choosing organic
  • Read labels to help you avoid negative ingredients
Word Of The Year - Simple

The Word Of The Year For 2019

Since 2013 I have picked a Word every year to be my focus for the upcoming year. As I’ve written about before it’s never an easy process.*  As a matter of fact, it can be downright difficult to pick one single word that becomes the guiding focus of the year. And oddly enough it’s amazing how much that word will resonate throughout your year and your life. Last year’s word, Change, for example, turned out to be really powerful on a lot of different levels both personally and professionally.

New Year New Word

This year, as I was going through the mental gyrations that I go through each year, I was beginning to despair of ever finding just the right word. I usually start by reading the words from previous years. This allows me to revisit my thought process and to reconnect with my intention setting goals. I then reflect back on the previous year; giving myself a report card of sorts. 

Luckily I’m not the only one who does this. At an end-of-year wrap-up meeting with some colleagues, we wound up discussing how challenging it can be to narrow your focus for the year ahead to just one word. One of my friends, Kirstin Nussgruber, mentioned that her word of the year for 2019 was going to be Simple.  As soon as she said that it really resonated with me. I announced that I was borrowing it and we were going to be word-buddies for 2019.

The meaning of a word

Part of the reason that picking a word is so difficult is that, for me, it that it has to truly have meaning. There has to be some deep reasoning behind it to make it my word. This is because for an entire year I am going to sit down and regularly focus on this word.  It’s also going to start showing up in my life in a lot of different ways.
Sometimes, like this year, it’s an internal “click” which lets me intuitively know that I’ve found the correct word. Once I’ve found the word, whatever it is, I then need to absorb it on a number of different levels in order to really make it my own. I start by looking up the meaning and then doing some journaling and introspective thought around the word.
According to the dictionary some of the meanings of the word simple are as follows:

Simple
[sim-puhl] adjective,sim·pler, sim·plest.

  1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.:simple matter; simple tools.
  2. not elaborate or artificial; plain:simple style.
  3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned:simple gown.
  4. not complicated:simple design.
  5. not complex or compound; single.
  6. occurring or considered alone; mere; bare: the simple truth; simple fact.
  7. free of deceit or guile; sincere; unconditional:frank, simple answer.

A personal journey

This resonates with me on so many different levels. First, and foremost, I am craving some simplicity in my life. After dealing with the last 16 months since Hurricane Harvey life has, quite frankly, been a bit of a roller coaster. Simple sounds really good right about now. There are a lot of areas of my life, home, work, relationships, personal development, that could all benefit from a focus on simplicity.

I also find myself really loving the idea of simple as not complicated. What I do, as The Ingredient Guru, can sometimes be very challenging for a lot of people to get stay abreast of. There is so much misinformation, conflicting information, and partial truths that staying on top of what’s really in and on your food is a full-time job. I’m lucky, I love what I do, the research, delving into the information, and sharing. I’m also tremendously grateful that people see me as a trusted resource. I like taking what can be an overwhelming topic and making it simple, i.e., easy to understand and to implement.

Find your word

I encourage you to adopt the practice of creating an intention word for the year. You’ll be amazed at how powerful it can be to condense the focus for an entire year down to one single word. If you’d like you can even join in the fun with others over at OneWord365 and see who else is in your word tribe. 

And whatever the upcoming year brings for you I wish you warmth and wonder, joy and health.  Be well.

* Prior words of the year: InspireFocusMindfulnessBalance, and Change.

Six Reasons To Love Adult Coloring Books

Coloring for adults

When you first think of coloring, you might picture children with bunches of crayons excitedly coloring in books with their favorite cartoon characters. But there’s a growing trend of adults that enjoy coloring. This has brought about the release of more complex coloring sheets and books designed exclusively for adults.

Many adults have discovered that not only is coloring fun, it also has health benefits, too. As a form of self-care (and self-care is one of my “ingredients for a healthy life“) coloring books are right up there for a simple, easy way to take a break.  If you’ve been thinking about adding coloring books to your self-care strategy, here are some of the ways this hobby can help support better health:

  1. Stress reliever
  2. Elevates mood
  3. The Un-tech Effect
  4. Improves focus
  5. Anyone can color
  6. Highly portable


STRESS RELIEVER
According to a study published in the Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, coloring in mandala or geometric patterns appears to lower stress and anxiety levels.  

When your body is stressed it produces cortisol.  In small doses this hormone can be beneficial, helping you get through a nerve-wracking speech or boosting your energy when you’re in the middle of a crisis such as a car accident. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to health problems. Problems like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

While coloring doesn’t prevent you from producing cortisol, it’s believed to help lower your cortisol levels. This may be because coloring allows you to get into the creative zone and focus on something enjoyable, rather than worrying about your problems. This, in turn, can help you to relax and release the tension in your body.

One of the conclusions of the Art Therapy study was that “It seems that the complexity and structure of the plaid and mandala designs drew the participants into a meditative-like state that helped reduce their anxiety.”

ELEVATES MOOD
Besides easing stress, coloring can also improve your mood. This could be due in part to the fact that no one is judging your art. In many ways, coloring is a freeing experience for adults. It may also be because coloring can lead to something called flow. 

Developed by positive psychology cofounder, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the concept of a highly focused mental state. When in a state of flow you are removing outside distractions.  Using coloring as something to create that flow, you let go of stress (as mentioned above) and are focusing the simple act of coloring. This can provide space which allows you to unwind.  Your flow state can then boost creativity, productivity, and positivity.

THE UN-TECH EFFECT
Let’s face it, our lives are immersed in technology. Your phone, your watch, your computer, tablet, and television are all highly technical and always pulling for your attention.  Even our homes are becoming smarter and more high tech. Doorbells, lights, heating systems, refrigerator, and more are requiring us to tap into technology. All of that technology interface can be overwhelming, overstimulating, and somewhat stressful. It feels like you are always surrounded. That’s because you are.

Yet with just your imagination, some paper, and a few coloring tools you can set aside some me-time and take a break from all that technology. Your brain will actually function better after a break and you’ll feel calmer too.

IMPROVES FOCUS
Another advantage of coloring is that it improves your focus. Many people find that coloring while listening to webinars or lectures makes it easier to absorb the information. Some of this may be due to an innate tendency to be a kinesthetic, or hands-on learner. But even those who aren’t typically kinesthetic learners may benefit. Many people find that keeping their hands busy, means their mind is less likely to wander.

Because coloring gives you better focus and more clarity, it can also be a good activity to do before you sit down to set goals or develop new strategies. Many highly creative people, such as Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, found answers to problems they were working on when they took a break and didn’t focus on the problem. The creativity required for coloring may help you think of new ways to tackle your goals and get the results you’re looking for.

ANYONE CAN COLOR
Many people suppress their artistic impulses telling themselves that they simply aren’t creative. The truth is we are all creative. We all have that spark within us. The beauty of adult coloring books is that when you’re coloring it’s a no pressure situation. You’re not expecting to have your coloring pages hung in a famous museum. You’re simply coloring. And you don’t even have to color inside the lines if you don’t want to. You can make green clouds, pink skies, or anything your imagination can conjure up. It’s a totally personal choice of what you color, what colors you choose, and how you put everything together.

HIGHLY PORTABLE
Coloring is one of those activities that can be done anywhere. There are even small books or tiny coloring kits that can be tucked into a purse or a backpack to have at the ready. Perfect for long waits at the department of motor vehicles or alone at a coffee shop. Wherever you are and whatever time you have available, coloring can fill in the gaps and give you a healthy break.

If you love to color and are looking for new sources of coloring material be sure to check out my ebook, Mira’s Marvelous Mandalas with forty-two ready to print beautiful mandala designs to bring you hours of creative fun and mindfulness.

Favorite Instant Pot Tools

I was a little late jumping onto the Instant Pot train, but now I really can’t remember what I did without it!  It is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen. Pressure cooking made easy-as-pie (hmmm… I haven’t tried making a pie in my pot yet…)  The ease alone would be enough but Instant Pot takes it even further – a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer and sauté pot, and that’s just the 6-in-1 model.  The 9-in-1 model also makes yogurt, cooks eggs, sterilizes AND makes cake. All this multi-tasking, no hogging my kitchen counter space – it’s a keeper. So I’ve given my Instant Pot it’s very own drawer, to store all its handy accessories.  Here are my favorites.

TEMPERED GLASS LID
A clear glass lid is perfect for when slow cooking, sautéing, keeping food warm, or even serving direct from the pot.
Instant Pot Tempered Glass Lid

STAINLESS STEEL INNER COOKING POT
Having a second inner pot makes it really easy to prepare multiple dishes. I find it especially handy when I’m meal-prepping. I can make a main dish, and then quickly pop in a new inner and make quinoa, rice a veggie and such. It’s almost as handy as having two Instant Pots.
Instant Pot Inner Cooking Pot

SEALING RINGS
The Instant Pot lid sealing ring is made of silicone. It’s really durable and will last you a long time. It can, however, hold onto food odor. I wash mine in my dishwasher after each use. I also periodically “steam-clean” it in the pot – toss a couple cut up lemons and a cup of water into the pot and cook on manual high pressure for fifteen minutes. I do have a second ring to use when I make a neutral or sweet dish and I really want to ensure no savory aromas are transferred.
Instant Pot Sealing Rings

STACKABLE INSERT PANS
Stackable insert pans are great when you have more than one dish you can cook at once – steaming, cooking veggies and rice. Or cooking two dozen hard-boiled eggs at a time. These make reheat leftovers in the Instant Pot so easy and fast, a much better choice than using a microwave.
Stackable Stainless-steel Insert Pans

STEAMER BASKET
A steam basket or rack is essential for Instant Pot cooking. I especially like one with moveable sides so it can adjust and accommodate food of all shapes and sizes. I like the extendable removable handle on this XOX model, it’s handy when lifting hot food from the pot.
OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Steamer with Handle

TRIVET-RACK-STAND
I use a taller trivet in addition to the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot, so I can cook in several layers. I’ll often cook things like sweet potatoes on the lower level and place an entrée in a pan above on the higher level. If you do this, take care that the height of the tallest item is not higher than the pot’s maximum fill line.
Trivet Rack Stand

RAMEKINS – OVEN-SAFE DISHWARE
I love my porcelain ramekins and love that they work so well in my Instant Pot. The perfect size for single serving dishes and porcelain doesn’t absorb odors or flavors.
Ramekins

HOT POT GRIPPER CLIP
Sort of like a hot pad’s much stronger studier weight-lifter cousin. Just clip the grip end onto the hot pot, or pan or basket and lift it from the Instant Pot. My friend Coleen, an Instant Pot veteran, gave me these when I first got my pot. She was absolutely right about how much I’d love them!
Hot Pot Gripper Clip

CHEESECAKE PAN
Perfect for cheesecake, tarts, quiches and more cheesecake. This pan was designed with Instant Pot cooking in mind, it has a handle for lowering into and lifting out of the pot. The only problem I have found with this pan is that it is too easy to make cheesecake. It’s very tempting to have cheesecake every week. LOL
Stainless Steel Cheesecake Pan

YOGURT MAKER CUPS
My Instant Pot doesn’t have the Yogurt function (sad face) so this yogurt maker cup set is on my wishlist for now. When it’s time to give my pot an Instant Pot sister, it will be the yogurt-making 10-in-1 model.
Yogurt Maker Cups

 

If you loved this list, be sure to check out my Favorite Kitchen Tools list. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to!

 

 

 

 

 

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Favorite Kitchen Tools

Good kitchen tools can help make cooking easy, delicious and fun. I’ve put together a list of a few of my favorites, the ones I find myself reaching for over and over again. Some are new discoveries and some are my dependable old friends.

 

CHEF’S KNIFE
Everyone needs a good chef’s knife. With an 8” blade and perfectly balanced, this is my favorite and I use it all the time. When I was displaced by Hurricane Harvey for a few months the one thing I missed the most was my knife.
Wüsthof Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

FLEX EDGE BEATER
I love my mixer and all of the attachments that come with it. Especially this scraper mixer blade This is an amazing mixer because it makes short work of beating, mixing, and blending. I even use it to mix my meatloaf.
KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater

IMMERSION BLENDER
This is the handiest dandiest tool in my kitchen. Perfect for making mayonnaise, blending soups and sauces, making applesauce, I also use it for making a bulletproof style boosted tea.
All-Clad Stainless Steel Immersion Blender

CUISINART
My mother bought me one years ago and I remember thinking “What the heck am I going to do with it?” Now I don’t know how I’d live without it. I use it to chop everything, including making chopped salads in the summer.
Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor

JULIENNE BLADE
Perfect for making julienned vegetables and especially for ‘zoodling’ zucchini, butternut squash. I’ve even used it to julienne apples for a shredded apple dessert.
OXO Good Grips Julienne Peeler

ECO-FRIENDLY FOOD STORAGE
I’m a big supporter of the movement to reduce plastic, especially one-time use plastic. I do my best to use eco-friendly products. In my kitchen, I’ve moved away from plastic wrap to Bee’s Wrap for food storage. Made of organic cotton, naturally antibacterial sustainably harvested beeswax, and organic jojoba oil that help keep food fresh. Each cloth is washable, reusable and compostable. Even their product packaging is sustainable, made from 100% recycled paper and biodegradable cellulose.
Bee’s Wrap 3-Piece Sustainable Reusable Food Storage

VITAMIX
I Iove my Vitamix. It was an investment for sure, but there’s good reason that foodies, home chefs and restaurant kitchens around the world are loyal to Vitamix. Mine gets used almost every day. Sure, it’s perfect for making smoothies, but it’s also great for blending NiceCream (“ice cream” made from frozen banana), homemade almond milk, coconut whipped cream, soup, and more.
Vitamix 7500

INSTANT POT
I’ve had my Instant Pot for less than a year now, and I really can’t remember what I did without it! It is my absolute favorite tool in the kitchen. Pressure cooking made easy-as-pie (hmmm… pie. I haven’t tried making a pie in my pot yet…)  The ease alone would be enough but Instant Pot takes it even further – a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer and sauté pot, and that’s just the 6-in-1 model.  The 7-in-1  also makes yogurt, and the 9-in-1  cooks eggs, sterilizes, makes yogurt AND cake. All this multi-tasking, no hogging my kitchen counter space – it’s a keeper. So I’ve given my Instant Pot it’s very own drawer, to store all its handy accessories.  I have so many favorites I’ve made a favorites list for Instant Pot Tools too. You can read that list here.
Instant Pot

LE CREUSET PAN
I adore my Le Creuset pan. It’s cast iron and enameled. From eggs for breakfast to sautéing veggies for dinner, this pan practically lives on my stovetop because we use it so much.
Le Creuset Signature Iron Handle Skillet, 9-Inch

MANDOLIN SLICER
Fabulous for slicing things at any time of year it’s great for salads, frying, canning, and makes quick work of different cuts for a wide variety of foods
Mueller Austria V-Pro 5 Blade Adjustable Mandolin

SHAMELESS PLUG
If you’re giving gifts for the kitchen this holiday season why not share a copy of my book The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food? This is a fabulous resource to help you learn more about your food, so you can make healthy choices. Available in Kindle or paperback, it’s an essential guide for anyone who eats, in other words, it’s an essential guide for everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Affiliate Disclosure: Recommendations I share on my website may contain affiliate links. If you click through my referral link, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I use myself and would share with friends and family. Your purchases from these companies through my links helps me continue to bring you free information on my site.

 

 

Building healthy habits with food journaling

5 Key Benefits Of Keeping A Food Journal

If you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, or prevent disease, you must to take a closer look what you’re eating (and what you’re not). And there is no better way than keeping a food journal.

In fact, I require all of my clients to keep food journal. And here are my top 5 reasons why:

Compares Perceptions to Reality

Keeping a food journal is truly the only way to determine whether or not your perceptions match reality. Many people think they’re eating healthy, but often find it eye opening when they see their food intake on paper. Because it’s not just about what you eat. It’s also about your eating habits.

Helps to Improve Your Diet

When you keep track of what you eat, you get a more detailed picture regarding your nutritional intake. For instance, are you eating enough protein? Are you eating too much sugar? Is your diet lacking sources of healthy fats?

Thus, you can use your food journal to help create a more balanced and nutrient-rich meal plan. And this will help you look and feel your best.

Helps Break Unhealthy Eating Habits

A good food journal keeps tracks of what you eat, but also how much you eat and when you eat.

You might learn that you eat more when you’re dining with others than solo. Or, maybe you’ll notice you always reach for sugar in the mid-afternoon. Seeing these patterns will help you make the necessary changes to break any bad habits.

For example, maybe you need to be more mindful when eating out with friends. Or, maybe you need a more balanced lunch to ward off your 3:00 PM sugar craving.

Identifies Potential Food Allergies, Sensitivities, & Intolerances

Even the healthiest foods can wreak havoc on some. Thus, for weight loss and optimal health, it’s really important to learn what foods work for you and what foods don’t.

Food allergies involve the immune system and reactions typically occur within two hours. On the other hand, non-immune related food sensitivities and intolerances are much more common and their reactions are usually delayed (up to 48 hours). Thus, they’re much more difficult to detect.  

However, using a food journal allows you to look back at your food intake should you start experiencing unexplained symptoms.

In some cases a food journal might help you realize that cheese causes you to bloat, which may be a sign of a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

Common symptoms of food sensitivities and intolerances include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Excess mucus
  • Nervousness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mood swings
  • Itchy or dry skin
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Night sweats
  • Food cravings
  • Acne
  • Brain fog

Connects the Dots Between Food and Your Health

What we eat affects every aspect of our physical and mental health. We can’t expect to eat poorly and feel great. Some foods may energize you, while others drain you. And some foods may lift your spirits, while others weigh you down.

Thus, by examining your food journal, you can learn a lot about how food affects YOUR body and mind. And once you connect these dots, I guarantee reaching your health goals will be much easier.

Food Journaling Tips

Food journaling may seem time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. While you certainly can carry your journal around with you, you can also take a picture of your meals and snacks with your phone and send them to your self with notes about your energy level and mood before and you ate. Then, each night before bed you can use your photos and notes to complete the food journal.

In Conclusion…

Keeping a food journal is one of the best strategies you can implement to help improve your diet, break bad eating habits, prevent disease, and successfully achieve all your health and wellness goals.

So what are you waiting for? Download a free copy of the food journal I use with my clients and start tracking your progress today!

 

 

mindfulness, the word of the year

The Word Of The Year – Mindfulness

Over the years I’ve developed a habit of choosing a word to serve as my intention for the year.  This year the word is mindfulness.  As I go through each year I reflect frequently on my word and see if I am meeting my reasons for having chosen it.  

Choosing a word

In past years it has sometimes been a struggle to come up with a word.  There are so many to choose from! And finding just the right one that resonates is not as easy as you might think.  Usually I wind up taking the time from Christmas until somewhere after the New Year to identify a word.

This year, as I worked on my new book on meditation I kept coming back to the word and it really resonated with me. Each time I thought about it, wrote about it, saw it on my desk or my computer it caught my attention and made me stop for a moment. 

I realized that it flows well from my previous word of Focus.

The dictionary defines mindfulness as

noun
1. the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.

2. Psychology.

  1. a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them:
    The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
  2. the mental state maintained by the use of this technique

 

Benefits of mindfulness

One of the things that appeals to me about choosing this word is how much it resonates with our need for self care.  When I work with clients I encourage them to be more mindful about their eating which, of course, has an impact on health. I encourage some sort of self care practice, breathing, meditation, yoga, all of which require a degree of mindfulness.

Moving forward into the new year there will be more of that.  Both for them and for me.  While I am a holistic health practitioner and I support others to achieve their wellness goals, I know I benefit from these practices as well.

The truth is that mindfulness is a very supportive piece of our overall health and wellness.  Studies have shown that it can help lower stress and reduce blood pressure. This, in turn, is good for heart health. [1]  Mindfulness can also help with nutrition, satiety, and even weight loss.  There are a number of studies about this and even a book on the subject

Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the year ahead I’m looking forward to deepening my own sense of mindfulness.   And I’m excited to share with others, supporting them to develop their own mindfulness practices as part of their wellness plan.

Words from past years

If you’re interested these are the words that I’ve chosen in the past.  I find it fascinating to look back at previous years, at the reasons I chose certain words and reflecting on the growth that brought to my life.

I’d like to encourage you to pick a word of your own. It’s an interesting exercise and can have some amazing results. If you want to take it one step further you can even go to OneWord365 and put it out there into the universe.

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Resources

[1] Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension 

 

Goals Not Resolutions

 

What’s in a resolution

With the New Year fast approaching many people sit down to make up a list of resolutions. This year I will…..

  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Exercise every day
  • Eat right
  • Give up junk food
  • Insert your favorite resolution here

The problem with the concept of a resolution is that we go about it the wrong way. We write down the results we are looking for not how we plan to get there. We craft ultimatum statements and that ultimately sets us up for failure.

In order to be successful with your anticipated changes for the new year consider setting goals instead of creating resolutions. Goals are a desired outcome. They are not as finite as resolutions. If you do not live up to your resolution frequently you are left feeling discouraged and possibly have a loss of self-appreciation or self-confidence. You’re also more likely to abandon it altogether (and perhaps any other resolutions that you formed at the same time).  With goals, however, the end result is planned for but not mandated. Along the way there may be reasons that you did not achieve your goal which you can examine and reconsider.  Or the goal may need to be modified along the way; because it’s a goal there’s room for that.

Creating goals

When creating goals there are a few things to consider. Because it’s one of the most commonly chosen resolutions, we’ll use an example of losing weight as a goal. Most people simply say that they will lose weight. They do not put qualifiers on the statement and do not think about how they will achieve their goal. Being prepared to think all the way through the goal helps to increase awareness and mindfulness and can increase your motivation and ultimate success.

  • What is your anticipated goal – to lose weight
  • Why do you want to achieve this goal – to look and feel better, so clothes fit better, to improve health
  • How much weight do you want to lose – is this goal realistic
  • How long do you think it will take you to achieve your goal – set realistic expectations for appropriate weight loss (you cannot lose 10 pounds in two weeks)
  • What are the steps required to achieve this goal – how will you have to change your nutritional plan and modify your eating patterns to achieve your goal
  • When do you plan to start the first step – choose a time that is workable, don’t start the day after a huge holiday party when you are not focused
  • What do you need to do to start that first step – do you need a support person, a program, a goal buddy, or a written plan

Be realistic

Don’t overwhelm yourself by setting too many goals at once. If you decide that in the next two weeks you are going to lose 20 pounds, start a new high-intensity exercise program, and give up your daily fast food run you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed. When we try to do too much without planning and awareness we can be setting ourselves up for failure. On the other hand, reasonable expectations and a well-thought out plan can be the cornerstone to your success.  And don’t discount the need for a deeper level of support.  A friend or family member who can serve as an accountability buddy, or working with a coach who can nurture you and design a program that works for you.

Above all remember to be kind to yourself. A goal is a hoped for achievement. If you do not master your goal it is not because you have failed. It simply means that you were not able to get to where you thought you might. This gives you an opportunity to re-evaluate your goal and see if it needs to be adjusted or modified.

Most importantly, when working toward a goal remember to stop occasionally, look back at how far you’ve come. Perhaps you’ve lost less weight than you had hoped for but you’ve made significantly healthier food choices. Maybe you haven’t been able to get to the gym every day like you had hoped, but when you do go you are feeling stronger and have more endurance. These are accomplishments to be proud of. Pat yourself on the back, review your plan and keep working towards your goal.