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Want better health? You must make peace with NOW

August 16th, 2018 | no comments

Photo by Tan Danh from Pexels

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What you think about, you bring about. Really?

If someone told me this five years ago, I would’ve listened politely, laughed quietly to myself, and then dismissed the idea as nothing more than new age baloney. I live in the real world of things, and if I can’t see it, I don’t believe it, I would’ve thought. I mean, if I can’t physically see a thought, how is it possible that it can manifest into something physical? It doesn’t make logical sense.

In his 2005 Stanford University commencement address, Steve Jobs said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

From June of 1997 to August of 2000, I fought a daily battle with binge eating disorder. After I healed, I did some serious soul-searching and began to realize that the painful experience I went through was not only brought about by my thoughts; it was a dot that had to happen in order for me to move forward and live the life of my dreams. Yes, I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I attracted binge eating disorder into my life.

What you focus on, expands

Another way to speak of this phenomenon called the law of attraction is, what you focus on, expands. Focusing on undesirable states that offer a great deal of inner contrast, such as lack, poverty, obesity, and disease, will draw more of these things into your life.

Since thoughts are energy and, literally, things, you want to be extra careful not to feed anything to your mind that you don’t want to come to life. I suggest very strongly that you clean up the thoughts you think about yourself and the contrasting experiences in your life. Pretend that every thought you have will come to life.

At first glance, the word contrast might conjure up negative feelings, but it’s not necessarily a negative thing. In fact, it can be quite helpful as a tool. I define contrast as an experience or situation that helps clarify what you really want. It can occur in any of these areas of your life: health, body shape, fitness level, food, relationships, finances, career, and spirituality.

Embrace your shadows…they are here to teach you something

Jalaluddin Rumi, a thirteenth-century Sufi mystic and poet, offers a unique way of appreciating all the thoughts and emotions we experience as human beings. Rather than deny them, he asks you to invite them in, with gratitude in your heart.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

 

For example, let’s say you are out of shape and therefore experiencing contrast in your level of physical fitness. This contrast helps you identify what you do want: a fit and healthy body. So if you don’t wish to occupy an out-of-shape body, stop talking about your unfit body and calling attention to it. Instead, acknowledge and welcome the contrast, and then focus on what you desire instead.

During my journey with binge eating disorder, all I thought about was how unhappy I was with my current body. This unhappiness multiplied, giving me more and more unhappiness. I got to the point where I was drowning in a tangled web of food and emotions. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had enough of the binging and overexercising, feeling guilty about food, inability to sense fullness, and total detachment from the true essence of me. This was the most contrast I ever experienced in my life, and it helped me to identify what I did want: a life free of food addiction and obsession. I wanted to be able to sit down to a delicious dinner at a nice restaurant with Wayne and not focus so much on the food. I wanted to enjoy the company and environment, and then walk away from the table without thinking about my next meal. I felt this deep within my soul. I felt, even if just for a few moments, what it would feel like to be free.

Here’s what the entire process looks like:

Make peace with, embrace, and appreciate what is (your body as it now is). Decide what you want (a fit and healthy body), and put that desire in your mind without calling repeated attention to what is (your body as it now is). Imagine what it will feel like to occupy this fit and healthy body. How will it feel in your clothes? See yourself in the mirror staring back. See it as already done. Believe that you occupy a fit and healthy body, and release resistance to any thought or feeling to the contrary, such as Yeah, but I’ve tried to improve my body in the past by dieting and spending countless hours in the gym, with no results.

Now it’s time to take action. This piece must not be forgotten. A fit and healthy body isn’t magically created by thought alone—you must take action. Eat more Earthfoods, move your body more, and offer it gratitude for keeping you alive all these years. Do this all while releasing attachment to the outcome. Let go, and watch your body as it changes.

You will get exactly what you place your attention upon, whether you want it or not. So if you aren’t satisfied with your body as it is today, for Pete’s sake, stop focusing on it, get to thinking about the healthy body of your dreams, and take action; it will become a reality.

 

Mel’s weekly food pick:
Thunderbird Real Food Bars

 

 

 

 

There aren’t many bars that I like because most are loaded with added sugar. One of my rules for choosing a nutrition bar is that it should have no more than 8-9 grams of sugar per bar and it must not contain any added sugar. Thunderbird Real Food Bars (specifically the Hemp + Sunflower + Pumpkin Seed bar and the Hazelnut + Coffee + Maca bar ) pass this first test. Check out these identifiable-by-your-grandmother ingredients:

  • Hemp + Sunflower + Pumpkin Seed bar: Dates, Macadamia Nuts, Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sunflower Seeds, Hemp Seeds, Macadamia Nut Butter, Coconut Shreds, Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Cinnamon, Himalayan Sea Salt
  • Hazelnut + Coffee + Maca bar: Dates, Almonds, Hazelnuts, Hazelnut Butter, Cacao Butter, Cacao Powder, Fair Trade Coffee Beans, Chia Seeds, Maca Root Powder, Vanilla Extract, Himalayan Salt Salt.

Because they have a low sugar content, these two bars are not super sweet. If you prefer less sweet, you’ll love them. If you want your nutrition bar to taste like a candy bar…go buy a candy bar. 🙂 xo

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Strawberry Banana “Surprise Shake”

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You’re vegan, I’m not…neither of us is “right”

August 9th, 2018 | no comments

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I’ve tried on countless eating styles over the years. In the early days I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, meaning I ate dairy and eggs, but no animal flesh. This lasted for about fifteen years.

In the middle of my vegetarianism, I dabbled in a vegan lifestyle to see how it would fit. This meant no animal products whatsoever. No cheese (sigh), milk, eggs, honey, or any products made with these foods. Yeah…I’m pretty sure that experience may very well have landed me in The Guinness Book for being the bitchiest vegan on the planet. Needless to say, that didn’t last very long. 

Looking back, it is very clear my body was demanding something that I was ignoring. Let’s face it; it’s not exactly easy to explain why you chose to add meat back into your diet, especially when you took an animal rights stance for a decade and a half.

In my early thirties I added omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish (i.e. salmon) to my diet because of the health benefits. I felt amazing. It wasn’t a ton, maybe six ounces a couple times per week.

In my early forties (yes, like very recently), I began including small amounts of hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken and turkey. I felt even better.

Hmmm…could this be what my body was demanding?

So, how do you know what eating style looks best on you? For starters, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. How do you feel most days? Energized or sluggish? Regular or constipated? Happy or bitchy 🙂 ? Well-rested or fatigued? Relatively pain-free or chronic aches and pains? Focused or foggy?
  2. How do you look? Is your skin healthy? How about your finger nails? Do you wish you carried around less body fat?
  3. What do your lab results look like? Blood pressure, cholesterol (both LDL and HDL), triglycerides, hemoglobin A1c (a measure of average blood glucose over a 2-3 month period), and c-reactive protein (CRP measures inflammation in the body) are all important numbers to look at.

Listen, there are right and wrong ways to be a vegetarian, vegan, and omnivore. The right way for all styles is to consume mostly plants and keep the sugar and processed foods off of your plate. This means, if you’re a meat-eater and have a nice piece of organic, free-range chicken for dinner, fill that plate with oodles of roasted vegetables (Brussels sprouts are my favorite!), have a leafy green salad with even more veggies on the side, and then add the chicken. If you’re a vegan, don’t make it a habit of filling up on French fries while standing proud in your veganism…because your insides are probably a wreck!  

The bottom line is this: do what works for you and do it well 80% of the time. Check in. How do you look and feel? What does your blood work show? Is this style working for you?

  • Yes? Well, then wave your flag proudly and keep doing it (just please don’t shove it in our face if we choose not to follow that lifestyle).
  • No? Be open-minded. Try another style and pay attention to what your body is saying…because it does speak to you. Are you listening?

PS: This week’s recipe pick of Roasted Eggplant Salad with Toasted Almonds, is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. Vegans: take out the cheese and honey; Vegetarians: don’t take anything out; Omnivores: Add antibiotic-free, hormone-free meat or wild salmon. See…we can all be friends! 🙂 xo

Mel’s weekly food pick:
Sea Salt

Did you know typical table salt (the kind on restaurant tables and the one you most likely have in your salt shaker) can legally contain any one of eighteen approved food additives? Will you pay a bit more for some really good sea salt? Yes. But trust me, it’s worth it…and you will absolutely taste the difference!

Anti-caking chemicals (listed as calcium silicate or sodium silicoaluminate – which is also found in laundry detergent!) and sugar (listed as dextrose) simply don’t belong in salt. It’s not necessary!

Two of my favorite sea salts for cooking and flavoring are: Redmond’s Real Salt and HimalaSalt’s Himalayan Pink Sea Salt.

Redmond’s Real Salt is the only brand of sea salt harvested from an ancient salt deposit near Redmond, Utah. It is unrefined, which means all of the essential minerals and trace elements that are naturally part of its origin, remain intact, and no harsh chemicals or additives are used. Ingredients: ancient sea salt.

HimalaSalt’s Himalayan Pink Sea Salt is sourced deep from within the Himalayas. It is also unrefined and contains numerous trace minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and more. Ingredients: 100% pure Himalayan sea salt. 

 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Roasted Eggplant Salad with Toasted Almonds

 

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It’s OK to feed your “head hunger” (yes, really!)

August 2nd, 2018 | no comments

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There comes a time in our life when we must face the music. To see things as they are and stop pushing against them.

Whether it’s extra weight, negative emotions, or a health condition like diabetes, when something is unwanted, our first inclination is usually to curse it…and then bury it. We may begin with the question “why me?” and then—because it doesn’t feel good to take a long hard look at it—cover it up with food or some other substance. Sometimes we simply push it from our minds and refuse to see it. 

But it never really goes away, does it?

Examine your life. Take a peek behind the veil and I’ll bet you can think of at least one glaring situation you aren’t facing. How can you tell? Because it’s the one thing you’ve yet to get a handle on and it’s ruining your health, or at the very least, acting as a huge barrier to better health. It’s the one thing triggering you to migrate to the pantry, pull out the bag of chips, and go to town. 

It’s lonely. Just you and the chips. But I’m here to tell you…you are not alone.

Look, we all have a dirty little secret buried deep within us and more often than not it involves food. So why can’t we just be open and honest and learn from each other? We’re all members of the same tribe here, so let’s cut the bull. Let’s get rid of the shame by sharing.

How about I start?

For as long as I can remember, tortilla chips were my nemesis. I’d be sitting at my desk working on a project and like a fish to water, gravitate to the pantry as if my next breath depended on it. Before I knew it I was elbow-deep in a bag of sprouted sea salt tortilla chips. Can you relate? I know I’m not alone here!

Determined to get a handle on this, I decided I would explore it some more the next time it happened. The very next day at 10:00 am, the compulsion struck again. It started as a familiar emptiness in the pit of my stomach—a sort of black hole seeking to be filled. It wasn’t hunger, because I just ate breakfast at 8:30. I sat with it for a moment, and just like so many times before, found my way to the pantry as if under a hypnotic spell. The compulsion happened again at 3:00 pm the same day. 

The more I sat with the discomfort, I realized it always occurred while I was working on or getting started on a business-related project. Sometimes I was in the middle of a project and would hit a creative roadblock. And there it was…the black hole seeking fulfillment.

As I became more curious about this frustrating phenomenon, revelations came bubbling to the surface.

Here’s what I learned. See if you can relate.

  • The episodes always happened at 10:00 am and again between 2:00-3:00 pm.
    • Can you relate? What time do these episodes happen for you?
  • They only happened when I was involved in a work project or other business needle-moving activity. 
    • Can you relate? What are you doing when they strike?
  • I was never physically hungry.
    • Can you relate? What does the urge feel like?
  • A slight pause always occurred before I got up from my desk (this pause is critical and if you keep reading, I’ll show you how to make it work for you).
    • Can you relate? During this pause, ask yourself: What am I really hungry for? For me, it’s inspiration and good ideas.
  • No matter how hard I tried to resist it, I always ended up feeding the black hole and feeling awful about myself afterwards.
    • Can you relate? Do you always give in? How do you feel when that happens? 

After some serious contemplation, I could’ve chosen the following conclusion: Oh well, I must be weak. Surely I lack willpower. I guess tortilla chips are my nemesis, but I’ll continue to fight because I am not a quitter!”

But that strategy never worked for me in the past, so why would it now?

Here’s what I did with what I learned. Take notes, because this is huge!

I thought to myself: if I know this is going to happen, why not shed some light and awareness on the “why” behind my compulsion to eat chips? Then, instead of resisting the temptation (because that only strengthens the desire), I’m going to schedule a nutritious snack and give myself permission to eat it. No strings attached.

I will eat thoughtfully and be fully aware of why I am eating.

I will stop looking at this as a negative thing and embrace it as part of my humanness. 

Let’s break this down into manageable chunks:

    1. Give yourself permission to eat, but first take a few deep breaths and shed a light on the “why”. I promise it won’t kill you (it’ll only feel like it at first 😉 ). 
      • Who says it’s wrong to eat in response to your emotions? I see it as part of normal eating. It’s a piece of being human. When we pretend it doesn’t happen or worse, shame ourselves when it does happen, we never get to the “why” and are therefore unable to heal it. Because you are giving yourself permission, you are now able to orchestrate a successful head-hunger eating episode (yes, there is such a thing!). 
      • ACTION: For this first step, make a pact with yourself that you will PAUSE and take fifteen seconds or so to really feel the emotion or situation before reaching for food. Label the feeling: fear; apprehension; exhilaration; sadness; anxiety, etc. Ask yourself: What am I really hungry for?
    2. Schedule a nutritious snack for this now mindful eating episode.
      • Because I knew this wasn’t physical hunger, it wasn’t necessary for me to add MORE food. To make it work for me, I decided I would save a little of my breakfast and lunch to eat during this time (i.e. a hard-boiled egg; a few apple slices; a quarter of my smoothie; half of my raw veggies).
      • ACTION: This food should serve your body in a powerful way and contribute to better health. Explore the time of day you eat to fill your black hole. What meal is it closest to? What can you pull from that meal and reserve for your now mindful eating episode? An apple? Side salad? Spoonful of almond butter?
    3. Eat your nutritious snack as thoughtfully as possible. 
      • ACTION: If you choose to eat, taste every bite and be mindful of why you are eating it. 

An interesting thing happens when you stop resisting the urge for food, and instead give yourself permission to eat in response to your head-hunger. The hold loosens and you find yourself more at peace and OK with not eating.

In a perfect world we would eat only when hungry and stop when satisfied. Look around you, this world is far from perfect. And so are you and I. We are perfectly imperfect.

Your black hole is there to teach you something. Why not work with it? Explore it. I’ve come to terms with mine and yes, I’m 100% mindful when I am filling it with a bit of nourishing food. And I am proud to say that it happens far less often…now that I’ve let go. 

Mel’s weekly food pick:
REAL Peanut Butter

Choosing peanut butter should be simple. I mean, if it says “peanut butter” on the front, it must be peanut butter, right? Sorry Charlie— more often than not, what you think is real peanut butter, is actually peanut spread. Peanut butter (or any nut/seed butter for that matter, including almond, cashew, sunflower, pistachio, walnut, and pumpkin seed) should have only one ingredient on the label—the nut or seed itself. A little bit of salt is OK too.

Take a look at your jar of Jif, Skippy, or Peter Pan and guess what? Sugar is most likely the second ingredient. Jif “Natural” is no better! Yes, sugar is still the second ingredient. Understand, the word “Natural” on a food label means absolutely nothing, so please don’t be fooled. Human gas is natural, but I wouldn’t want to bottle that up and eat it…would you?

You’ll also be surprised to learn that both Skippy and Peter Pan are made with hydrogenated fat (i.e. trans fat). Yes, those artery-clogging, heart disease-contributing fats health experts have been warning us about for years. Seriously? Are these companies still in the dark ages or what? We’ve learned long ago that trans fats are the absolute worst for our health. Please don’t waste your money friends, you deserve better than this!

Here is a list of four brands of peanut butter with only peanuts. Some contain a little salt too. You could also grind your own peanut butter or purchase fresh ground peanut butter in many grocery stores!

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Easy Peachy Peanut Butter Jam

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How to lower your triglyceride levels

July 26th, 2018 | no comments

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Take a look at your most recent cholesterol test/lipid panel and you’ll probably notice triglycerides listed among the results. So what exactly are triglycerides and how can you lower your levels in a more natural way if they are out of range?

Triglycerides: What are they? What raises them?

Triglycerides are  a type of fat (lipid) in your blood, which if too high, can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke. Their function in the body differs from that of cholesterol. Triglycerides store the unused calories of a meal in your fat cells which can later be released for energy between meals, and cholesterol works to build cells and produce certain hormones.

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, here’s what the following triglyceride values mean:

Less than 150 mg/dL  = Normal

150-199 mg/dL = Borderline high

200-499 mg/dL = High

500+ mg/dL = Very high

High triglycerides may be caused by any one of the following:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Inactive lifestyle 
  • Kidney disease
  • Diet high in sugar, refined and processed food, including: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and refined oils: canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, sunflower…check your food labels because processed foods are LOADED with these inflammatory fats!
  • Certain medications
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • Overeating on a regular basis
  • Hypothyroidism 
  • Smoking

Lifestyle changes to lower triglycerides

Here are seven strategies that you can implement to lower your triglycerides in a more natural way. To make it a habit, choose one or two (or all seven if you’re really motivated!) and practice them consistently over the next several weeks as suggested below. You’ll be amazed at how good you feel, which is always a good indication that things are moving in the right direction beneath the surface.

  1. Move more, sit less
    Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day (walking, jogging, basketball, swimming, biking, etc.) and don’t sit for more than 50 minutes at one time. 
  2. If you drink alcohol, limit it to one serving per day
    A serving is equal to 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
  3. Cut way back on sweets and refined/processed foods
    These include cereals, crackers, breads, pastas, snack foods, sweets, sugary beverages, and the following ingredients on food labels: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil, and highly refined oils, labeled as: canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean or sunflower oil.
  4. Load up on Earthfoods
    Plant-based foods are your body’s BFF. Choose from an array of: non-starchy vegetables (bonus points for leafy greens), fruits (bonus points for berries), beans, lentils, herbs, spices, garlic, avocados, and nuts and seeds (i.e. flax, hemp, chia, sunflower, pumpkin, etc.). Check out this week’s recipe pick: Peach, Avocado & Cucumber Salad (w/lavender and fennel pollen goat cheese).  A yummy, summery salad loaded with tons of triglyceride-lowering Earthfoods— tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peaches, avocados, cilantro, and sunflower seeds!
  5. Fit in healthy fat
    The best fats include: extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and MCT oil. MCT stands for Medium Chain Triglyceride—a special type of saturated fatty acid derived from coconut oil that can help reduce elevated triglycerides.
  6. Eat more fatty fish
    Low contaminant, oily, omega-3-rich fish are super effective for maintaining healthy triglyceride levels. These fish include: anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines. Aim for 2-3 servings per week!
  7. Bridge the gap (but only when you’ve done the above first)
    Those with triglyceride levels over 500 mg/dL can benefit from supplementing with high dose pure fish oil and also niacin (vitamin B3). Both supplements can lower triglycerides and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. Always check with your doctor before beginning any supplement, as it can negatively interact with certain medications you may be taking. 

Even if you choose only one or two from the list above, remember to be consistent! Each can be extremely powerful when repeated on a daily basis.

Practice…repeat…wait…and see!

Mel’s weekly food pick:
Cilantro

Cilantro is considered one of the most potent detoxifying herbs around. It has the power to bind heavy metals (such as arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, lead, and mercury) that can bury themselves in our precious tissues, causing cardiovascular, hormonal, and neurological damage. Cilantro also facilitates in eliminating these harmful metals from the body. 

Research also indicates that cilantro can lower both total cholesterol and triglycerides levels when consumed on a regular basis. (1)

We tend to limit cilantro to guacamole and salsa recipes, but you can easily add it to any salad or smoothie—just give it a good rinse before adding. Check out this week’s recipe pick for a delicious summer salad using cilantro.

I’ve been known to munch on a few sprigs of cilantro just because I know how good it is for my body. I know…total nutrition geek! 

Another interesting note about cilantro: After it flowers, it produces seeds—called coriander seeds—which are often used in Latin-American and Mexican cuisines due to its spicy, citrus flavor. 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Peach, Avocado & Cucumber Salad (w/lavender and fennel pollen goat cheese)

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Watch out for these ingredients in non-dairy milk!

July 19th, 2018 | no comments

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  • Mel’s weekly food pick:
    Native Forest Simple Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
    Fruity Tropical Whip


Not everyone can digest cow’s milk and some people outright avoid it for health reasons or due to specific dietary patterns they’ve adopted (read my thoughts on dairy products HERE).

That’s where non-dairy nut milk comes in. 

Stroll down the dairy aisle of any grocery store and you’ll find everything from almond milk to macadamia nut milk. But what should you really be looking for in a non-dairy milk? What ingredients should send up a red flag and make you put it back on the shelf?

I’m going to keep this really simple and then offer you an easy breezy solution for making your own non-dairy milk.

Two classes of ingredients that don’t belong in non-dairy milk (or cow’s milk for that matter):

  • Sugar and zero-calorie sweeteners: Listed on the ingredient label as sugar, cane sugar, cane syrup, monk fruit, reb A (stevia extract).

   WHY? Seriously…I don’t think you need me to answer that.

  • Emulsifiers and thickeners: Listed on the ingredient label as lecithin, carrageenan, guar gum, locust bean gum, tara gum, gellan gum, gum arabic, xanthan gum, corn dextrin.

    WHY? These ingredients have been known to cause digestive upset, including gas and bloating. While a little bit of gas won’t kill you, there is no reason for these additives to be in your food. Additionally, carrageenan—an additive extracted from red seaweed and used to thicken dairy (and dairy alternatives, along with many other processed foods)— is of particular concern. Undegraded carrageenan—the type widely used in foods—has been associated with inflammation, malignancies and other stomach problems. (1)

It’s not easy to find non-dairy milk without at least one of the above ingredients, that’s why many people are making their own nut milk! Personally, I haven’t gone as far as to “milk” my almonds…yet. If you are interested in making your own nut milk using whole nuts, check out this recipe.

Still, it can be super convenient to just pick up a carton of non-dairy milk, so if you choose to go this route, I would recommend to first avoid carrageenan, then aim for unsweetened milk. For this you’ll have to look at the ingredient label because even the milks labeled “Original” still have added sugar. Choose milk specifically labeled “unsweetened”.

The best brand I’ve found so far…

Is Elmhurst—specifically their unsweetened varieties. Although a bit pricey, they’ve managed to create a non-dairy milk with only two ingredients: filtered water and almonds. So in my opinion, it’s worth it. Elmhurst also makes an unsweetened hazelnut milk too!

How to make your own coconut milk in seconds….

If you don’t want to spend the money and have three minutes to spare (Yes…you DO have three minutes to spare!), crack open a can of Native Forest Simple Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk (see below for why I think this brand is the best), mix with four cans of water, shake/blend, and serve!

 

Mel’s weekly product pick:
Native Forest Simple Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk

 

When shopping for canned coconut milk to use in recipes, you will notice that most brands contain additives, such as guar gum…which could cause bloating and gas in sensitive people. No thanks!

Native Forest Simple Organic Unsweetened Coconut Milk is a brand of BPA-free canned coconut milk with only one simple ingredient: Organic Coconut Milk. And because it is certified organic, it’s also free of GMOs! 

If you would like to make your own coconut milk for using in smoothies and such, you’ll have to dilute canned coconut milk with water. Simply mix one can of coconut milk to 4 cans of water and blend or shake until combined!

Looking for a sweet treat to cool off this summer that isn’t ice cream? Whip up a quick batch of my Fruity Tropical Whip! It’s a nice dairy-free alternative to ice cream using coconut milk. 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Fruity Tropical Whip

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8 Inexpensive ways to eat better

July 12th, 2018 | no comments

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“Healthy eating is so expensive Melanie!”

Not so pussy cat!  Believe it or not, when you make wiser food choices, you actually eat less! Don’t believe me? Sit back and get a load of this.

The human body is in search of nutrients from food, not calories. So when you eat real food—nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, fruits, veggies, fresh meats and seafood— your body knows when to stop eating.  Feed it loads of processed food (i.e. frozen meals, chips, ice cream, pizza, etc.) and it begins the search for the nutrients that it knows will satisfy it. But when it can’t find those nutrients, it continues to eat more, still looking. This is precisely why I can eat an entire bag of chips and still want more!

Listen, if you plan appropriately and know what to buy, you can throw a quick and tasty meal together in just minutes. For example, a favorite breakfast/lunch of mine costs a mere $2.81 to put together. It consists of the following:

  • 1 small avocado: $1.00
  • 1 free range egg: $0.38
  • 2 tablespoons of store bought hummus: $0.60 (make your own hummus using THIS EASY RECIPE and you’ll save $$!)
  • 1 organic apple: $0.83

           TOTAL: $2.81

Compare this meal to your daily $3.69 Starbucks grande Caffe Latte (the one you don’t think twice about). Now tell me…is healthy eating expensive? Sure you can find a million examples of pricey organic produce and meats and throw those in my face, but I’m here to tell you that you CAN eat healthy on a budget without clipping coupons or skimping on quality. 

Here is a short list, along with meal planning ideas, for some of my favorite kitchen staples that won’t break the bank:

  1. 32-ounce bag of frozen strawberries: $1.13 per cup
    Meal idea:

    • Add a cup to your favorite smoothie recipe.
  2. Organic free-range eggs: $0.38 per egg
    Meal ideas:

    • Hard boil seven for the week, store in the refrigerator and eat one for breakfast, as a snack, or chop on top of salad.
    • Try my Egg & Hummus Stuffed Avocado recipe!
  3. Sustainably caught, low mercury tuna (Wild Planet; Safe Catch; Henry & Lisa’s): $2.00 per serving
    Meal idea:

  4. 16-ounce bag of quinoa: $0.60 per serving
    Meal ideas:

    • Season with your favorite spices and serve in place of rice at dinner.
    • Make the perfect probiotic-rich salad using this recipe!
  5. 16-ounce bag of lentils: $0.25 per serving
    Meal ideas (NOTE: Lentils require no soaking and take only 15 minutes to prepare):

    • Mix with quinoa and kimchi to prepare a Lentil, Quinoa & Kimchi Salad for lunch.
    • Add to marinara sauce, soups, casseroles, or tuna and egg salads for a fiber boost!
  6. 16-ounce bag of baby carrots: $0.50 per serving
    Meal ideas:

    • Toss into smoothies.
    • Eat as a snack with a side of OMG Hummus.
    • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and roast in the oven using this simple recipe.
    • Chop and add to tuna and egg salad, along with diced red onion and celery!
  7. Bag of small avocados: $1.00 per avocado
    Meal ideas:

  8. Organic Apples: $0.83 per apple
    Meal ideas:

Consider this: A sick body is REALLY expensive. How much money would you dish out to fix a broken, unhealthy body?

Now, tell me again how “expensive” it is to make healthier choices?

Crickets…

Mel’s weekly product pick:
Apples

Next to berries, apples are my favorite fruit. Nothing exotic about them at all…just a plain and simple apple. 

Part of the reason I adore them so is that they fill me up more than bananas, oranges, melons, and pretty much any other fruit. The reason? They’re loaded with dietary fiber (4 grams per medium apple) in both the skin and pulp…this is why you should NEVER peel your apples before enjoying. 

Because they land on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”—a list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables with the highest loads of pesticide residues—it’s best to purchase organic apples when possible.

In addition to the meal ideas shared above, here are three other ways to enjoy your favorite apple:

  1. Dice half of an apple and stir into cottage cheese- this makes a wonderful quick breakfast or lunch. My favorite cottage cheese is Kalona Supernatural Organic Whole Milk Cottage Cheese.
  2. Infuse sweet flavors into your glass of water by adding a few thinly sliced Fuji apples.
  3. Sweeten up plain Greek yogurt with diced apples and a dash of cinnamon. 
Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Egg & Hummus-Stuffed Avocado (with sliced apples)

 

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Why I stopped wearing my Fitbit

July 5th, 2018 | no comments

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A couple years ago I invested in a Fitbit. Wearable devices measuring steps, miles walked, time spent being sedentary, and sleep quality, were the hottest thing to hit the fitness industry. They also became an object of desire for regular folks just looking to be more active…a very good thing indeed!

In November of 2015, I strapped my new Fitbit to my wrist and there it remained for fourteen months, only to be removed for daily showers and battery charges. 

In the early days I thought it was a complete hoot! I took instant delight in tapping the display several times each day hour to check my progress. I entered into Fitbit challenges with my Fitbit “friends” to see who could achieve the most steps in any given week. Again, it was super fun and I really enjoyed the competition. 

Then, about two months in, the obsession began.

On those days when I fell short of my 15,000 step-goal, I would immediately enter into a state of guilt. But even when I met the goal, there were days when—after a long day of work, followed by exercise and making dinner—I would sit down to rest and sync my Fitbit with my phone, only to discover…Oh no! I’m lagging behind my friends! I’d then get up and start moving around again—marching in place or finding “stuff” to do—just so I could eek out a couple hundred more steps before I called it a day. 

The obsession continued, and I even ran the risk of looking like a complete ninny…all for the sake of racking up more steps. You see, my particular Fitbit model didn’t pick up steps during certain activities, such as the StairMaster or while pushing a grocery cart. I wasn’t about to let those precious, hard-earned steps slip by, so I did what any sane insane person would do…I strapped the Fitbit to my shoe while on the StairMaster!

That’s not the ninny part.

THIS is the ninny part: As I pushed my grocery cart around the store with non-Fitbit arm, I would swing my Fitbit arm like an uncoordinated baby giraffe to pick up the steps. Yeah…I pretty much looked like a drunken madwoman and quite sure I caught a few eyes with that one!

In January of 2017, when most people are just getting ready to commit to a more active lifestyle, I decided I had just about enough of this glorified homing device, and off it came. Never to cuff my wrist again! Now I know what a caged tiger feels like when it tastes its first bite of freedom.

I can sum up my 14-month Fitbit escapade in one word: unnatural. 

Wearable Devices: Two things they do well
  1. Give a gentle reminder when you’re too sedentary.
    The one positive of wearable devices is the built-in feature that sends a vibrating alert when you’ve been sitting too long. You may have heard the phrase: sitting is the new smoking. While I don’t believe for a minute it is as dangerous as smoking, sitting for excessively long periods of time is a risk factor for early death! This conclusion came as a result of a September 2017 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
  2. Shed a bright spotlight on how inactive you really are.
    If you should be getting roughly 10,000 steps per day and your wearable device highlights the painful reality that on average you get only 3,000, this is a glaring wake-up call! In other words, even though you walk the dog around the block after work, you are far from active! In this case, wearing a Fitbit or other device for a few weeks can give you an idea what your body should feel like when it’s active: energized, refreshed, and sore in a good way, versus sluggish, achy, and stiff! Once you recognize the difference, there’s no need to continue wearing your Fitbit. 
How can you have the best of both worlds?
  1. Train your body to CRAVE movement.
    If you have a sedentary job or spend most of your day sitting, you will have to train your body to get up and move every 30-50 minutes. Set the alarm on your phone to go off at regular intervals throughout the day as a reminder. That’s what I do (see the screenshot of my phone?)! Soon it will become habit and your body will send you warning signs of neck and back pain when you “over-sit”. 
  2. Appreciate the deliciousness of joyful movement.
    Instead of looking at daily exercise as a chore or something you must check off of your never-ending to-do list, appreciate it for what it really is: a gift blessed upon you for the sole purpose of taking care of your temporary temple.

What a privilege it is to be given the gift of a body…don’t you think? 

 

Mel’s weekly product pick:
Quinoa

Although thought of as a grain, quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is actually a seed. It comes from Peru, Bolivia and Chile and is closely related to beets, chard and spinach. 

Because of its absence of gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye and barley), quinoa is especially attractive to those following a gluten-free diet.

Another interesting fact about quinoa is that it contains all of the essential amino acids needed by the body, making it a ‘complete’ protein. It’s pretty rare for a plant-based food to house all amino acids, which is why quinoa is often a staple in vegan diets. 

Quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice or oatmeal, and can also be made into flour, flakes and various foods like pasta, bread, muffins, and pizza crust. Be sure to check out my recipe below for Garlicky Quinoa Pizza Crust! 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Garlicky Quinoa Pizza Crust

Seriously, I love pizza- the spicy sauce and ooey gooey cheese, topped with red onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil. But for the past couple of years I’ve gradually scooted gluten—the protein found in wheat, rye and barley—out of my diet, which means no pizza! 

I’ve attempted sweet potato-crust pizza, kale-crust pizza, and my favorite: cauliflower-crust pizza. Although delicious, cauliflower-crust pizza is a LOT of work! I jokingly asked my husband if he liked it, to which he replied “Oh YES!” My reply: “Well enjoy this one because I’m NEVER making it again!” 🙂 

Then I found a recipe for quinoa-crust pizza that really had me intrigued…but I have to say, I wasn’t overly optimistic.

I made a few adjustments in the recipe and am pleased to report that this pizza crust turned out beautifully, and is really easy to make. The only time-consuming step is soaking the quinoa, but if you begin the soak in the morning right after you wake up, it will be ready to use by dinnertime! 

Please note: I used pre-rinsed quinoa in this recipe. If you use quinoa that is not pre-rinsed, you will have to rinse it through a fine mesh strainer both before and after soaking. 

PS: Most pizza sauce on the market contains added sugar. Boo! Fortunately there are a (very select) few without. Rao’s Pizza Sauce contains no added sugar, only: Italian whole peeled tomatoes, Italian cherry tomatoes, olive oil, carrots, onions, salt, dried oregano, garlic, and basil.

Print Recipe
Garlicky Quinoa Pizza Crust
A better-for-you pizza crust made with just five simple ingredients. Serve it alongside a fresh arugula salad sprinkled with chopped veggies and toasted pumpkin seeds and dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. My favorite pizza toppings include: Pizza sauce (with no added sugar) or pesto sauce, shredded asiago and Parmesan cheese, kalamata olives, red onions, fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and fresh basil. This recipe makes two small pizza crusts and yields six servings per pizza. 0 Earthfoods per serving.
Servings
servings per pizza
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups pre-rinsed quinoa I like Ancient Harvest brand
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. Sea salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Servings
servings per pizza
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups pre-rinsed quinoa I like Ancient Harvest brand
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. Sea salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place quinoa in a bowl and cover it with water (about one inch above quinoa). Let soak overnight or at least eight hours. If not using pre-rinsed quinoa, you will have to rinse it through a fine mesh strainer before soaking.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Drain quinoa very well. If not using pre-rinsed quinoa, you will have to rinse it again in this step.
  3. Place quinoa, water, salt, baking powder and garlic powder into a food processor and process for about two minutes until smooth in consistency.
  4. Line two 8- or 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. To make it simple, place the cake pan on top of the parchment paper, draw an outline of it, cut it out, and place it into the cake pan. Pour one tablespoon of oil into each pan atop the parchment paper and then pour the batter evenly into both cake pan atop the oil, smoothing it out evenly.
  5. Bake the crusts for 15 minutes. Carefully flip the crusts over, remove the parchment paper and bake for another five minutes.
  6. Top the pizzas as desired. Bake for another 5-10 minutes until your toppings have cooked through. Cool, cut, and serve!
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per serving (1/6 of one pizza not including sauce or toppings)Calories: 110Total Fat: 4 g; Saturated Fat:  0.3 g; Sodium: 275 mg; Potassium: 0 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 16 g; Dietary fiber: 2 g; Net Carbohydrates: 14 grams; Sugar: 2 g (no added sugar); Protein: 3 g

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Maybe you’re not ready

June 28th, 2018 | no comments

Plus:

  • Mel’s weekly product pick:
    Tahini
  • Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
    OMG! Hummus

A few weeks ago, I ran into a friend while grocery shopping. Well, actually he is a past client who turned into a friend— a special kind of person who just radiates positive energy…the kind you can literally feel!

I can’t help but smile when I think of how far Josh has come in his quest for a healthy body. My heart smiles as I reminisce about that cool fall morning when he marched into my office with the following proclamation:

“My doctor just diagnosed me with diabetes and I am not going down like that! Tell me what I have to do to turn this thing around, and I’ll do it!”

I was a bit taken aback by his insistence, yet part of me—if I’m being honest—thought: Yeah, yeah, yeah- I’ve heard this song and dance before. Let’s see how long you stick to your guns.

We engaged in an hour-long coaching session, set some goals, and off he went to “reverse his diabetes”. 

I kept in touch with Josh periodically over the next few months, and then one day out of the blue, he knocked on my office door and entered with a larger-than-life smile.

Well coach, you’ll never believe it! Three months ago my hemoglobin A1C (a blood test used to diagnose diabetes) was in the 9s and today, it’s a 6.1! 

I leapt up from my chair and hugged him tighter than I’ve ever hugged anyone before. He did it! And guess what? This was back in early 2017…today Josh has managed to lower his A1C to that of a non-diabetic. 

There was something in his eyes that I’ve seen very few times before—a radiance of sorts. As if it came from a place far beyond this earthly plane. The only fitting word that can come close to describing it is…grace. And I knew he would never turn back to his old ways.

I am fascinated by this man’s perseverance. He said he was going to do it, and he did. When I asked Josh what drove him to this level of self-improvement despite all the temptations and excuses that are so easy to lean on when times get tough (i.e. “I don’t have the time”, “I’m too tired to exercise”, “I hate the taste of food that is good for me!”, etc.), he said:

“I was ready.”

Then he proceeded to say the most brilliant and succinct words I’ve ever heard come out of any human being:

“You know Melanie…sometimes the clown has to finish his act.”  

I paused for a second to really let his words sink in, then belted out a loud roar of laughter at the absolute benign simplicity of his statement: Sometimes the clown has to finish his act. In other words, sometimes you aren’t ready…and that’s OK. 

Even though your habits many not be serving your health, you’ll make a change when you are ready. And when you know, you know. When you reach this state of readiness, watch out! It will literally feel like you’re being shot out of a motivation cannon.

My only hope is that you don’t wait until it’s too late, because not all conditions are reversible. But again, your readiness is not up to me. 

Before he left my office, Josh said something that I’ll never forget:

“Everyone has a vote. You just have to ask yourself: ‘Am I worth it?'”

So let me ask you: Have you finished your act? Are you ready to cast your vote?

 

Mel’s weekly product pick:
Tahini

You’ve heard of almond butter and peanut butter, right? I think it’s time you met sesame seed butter…also known as tahini. 

Tahini is simply a paste made of ground sesame seeds. It’s found in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes and can be used to make hummus, served by itself as a dip, as a healthy fat for smoothies, spread on sandwiches or wraps, as a salad dressing, or combined with dates and cashews in a food processor to make a nutritious energy ball snack (check out this simple recipe). 

I like Artisana Organics Raw Tahini because it has only one ingredient…you guessed it, sesame seeds! Whichever brand you choose, make sure it’s made with sesame seeds and nothing else. Also, you’ll have to give it a really good stir before using because—just like natural peanut butter and almond butter— the oil tends to settle at the top. 

Use tahini to make this week’s recipe pick: OMG! Hummus. If you love hummus, you will totally adore this recipe!

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
OMG! Hummus

This simple and clean hummus recipe leaves me wondering if I’ll ever use the store-bought kind again! Made with canned chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini (sesame seed butter), extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and cumin, OMG! Hummus is creamy and dreamy with just the right amount of zing.  

Use it as a:

  • Dip for raw veggies
  • Topping for your pizza
  • Filling for avocados or deviled eggs
  • Substitute for mayonnaise and sour cream

Or… try it as a “dressing” for your salad. Lately I’ve been topping my green salads with a couple tablespoons of hummus and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bottled salad dressings no longer please my palate since I’ve come up with this newfound excuse to eat more hummus.

Feel free to add other toppings to your OMG! Hummus, such as a sprinkle of smoked paprika, diced kalamata olives, or sun-dried tomatoes!

The original recipe comes from www.cookieandkate.com. Check out Kate’s website, she’s got oodles of delicious and nutritious recipes!

Print Recipe
OMG! Hummus
This simple and clean hummus recipe leaves me wondering if I'll ever use the store-bought kind again! Made with canned chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, tahini (sesame seed butter), extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and cumin, OMG! Hummus is creamy and dreamy with just the right amount of zing.  1 Earthfood per serving: ♥
Course Dressing
Prep Time 15-20 minutes
Servings
servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or you can use Lakewood Organic Pure Lemon Juice
  • 1 large clove fresh garlic, minced or you can use 1/2-1 tsp. of jarred minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup tahini try Artisana Organic Raw Tahini
  • 2-4 tbsp. ice water, or more as needed I used around 6 tablespoons to make it extra creamy!
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Course Dressing
Prep Time 15-20 minutes
Servings
servings (serving size: 1/4 cup)
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or you can use Lakewood Organic Pure Lemon Juice
  • 1 large clove fresh garlic, minced or you can use 1/2-1 tsp. of jarred minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. Sea salt
  • 1/2 cup tahini try Artisana Organic Raw Tahini
  • 2-4 tbsp. ice water, or more as needed I used around 6 tablespoons to make it extra creamy!
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Combine lemon juice, garlic and salt in a food processor until garlic is finely chopped. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Add tahini and blend until thick and creamy, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of food processor as needed. While running the processor, drizzle in 2-4 tablespoons of ice water and blend until really smooth, pale and creamy. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons more ice water if needed.
  3. Add the cumin, chickpeas, and baking soda to the food processor. While blending, drizzle in the olive oil. Blend until super smooth, again, scraping down the sides of the processor as necessary, about 2 minutes. Add more ice water by the tablespoon if necessary to achieve a super creamy texture.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Add toppings of your choice, such as a sprinkle of smoked paprika, diced kalamata olives, or sun-dried tomatoes!
  5. Refrigerate any leftovers in a covered container for up to a week.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Facts per serving (1/4 cup)Calories: 150Total Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Sodium: 450 mg; Potassium: 187 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 13 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Net Carbohydrates: 9 grams; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 5 g

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How to rekindle your love affair with sleep

June 21st, 2018 | no comments

Plus:

  • Mel’s weekly product picks:
    6 Natural sleep aids
  • Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
    Sleep Tight Tonic

Most everyone knows they should be getting more sleep—that’s a no-brainer. But knowing doesn’t necessarily translate into doing.

Getting adequate sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health—even more important than proper nutrition and exercise.

When it comes to being sleep deprived, you don’t know what you don’t know. What I mean by that is, just because you feel perfectly fine on four, five or six hours of sleep, doesn’t mean it’s OK. In fact, I guarantee that if you committed to getting at least seven hours of sleep each night for one week, you would never again settle for less. Why? Because you’d feel like a rock star! Everything in your life gets better when your body is properly rested.

For the record, due to a genetic mutation, only one percent (that’s 1%) of the population can get by on less than seven hours of sleep. Hint…it’s probably not you!

Chances are, if you aren’t getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, one of three reasons is to blame:

  1. You haven’t made sleep a priority.
  2. You find it difficult to fall asleep.
  3. You fall asleep with ease, but have trouble staying asleep.

Whatever the reason you’re cheating on your relationship with sleep, here are six tips to help you rekindle your love affair with a peaceful night’s rest.

Tip #1: Turn down the lights

This may seem like an obvious one, but did you know that light suppresses the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep and wake cycles? Before climbing into bed, take steps to turn down the lights and make your bedroom a calm, quiet and dark space. This includes not exposing yourself to bright lights from the TV, e-readers and your cell phone at least thirty minutes prior to getting into bed.

Tip #2: Turn down the heat

A cool bedroom is key to getting a good night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 65 degrees and says that sleep is actually disrupted when temperatures rise above 75 degrees or fall below 54 degrees.

Tip #3: Prioritize sleep like you prioritize hygiene

You wouldn’t think of leaving the house without brushing your teeth, would you? It’s time to recommit to sleep by rearranging your schedule to get just thirty minutes more shut-eye each night. Then gradually bump it up in 30-minute intervals until you reach 7-8 hours. This may mean you turn off the TV a little sooner or save the laundry until tomorrow. Treat sleep as if your life depends on it…because it does!

Tip #4: Be cautious of caffeine

A caffeine jolt in the late afternoon or early evening can seriously disrupt your sleep. Vow to avoid caffeinated beverages and foods after 3 pm. These include chocolate, coffee (including decaf), non-herbal teas (green, black, and white teas), energy drinks and waters, soda and mocha, coffee or chocolate-flavored ice creams. If you are especially sensitive to caffeine, you may want to consider an earlier quit time.

Tip #5: Wind down your mind

To help calm your mind, try meditating, listening to soothing music, or reading a non-work related book, like poetry, a biography, a novel or spiritual text. Here’s what I’m currently reading! You’ll be more likely to settle into a restful sleep if you do these activities at least 30 minutes before bed. Note: Blue light from computers and e-readers suppresses melatonin, which is especially bad for sleep. Choose only physical books to read before bed.

Tip #6: Consider natural sleep aids

Instead of reaching for sleeping pills—which can leave you feeling groggy and out-of-sorts the next day—try a natural sleep aid. I don’t let an evening go by without taking my magnesium supplement. Another favorite bedtime ritual of mine is sipping on a cup of Nighty Night tea. Any one of the natural sleep aids featured in this week’s product picks can help you in your quest for more rest. Also, check out this week’s recipe pick for a natural and effective sleep tonic made with three simple ingredients. 

Mel’s weekly product picks:
6 Natural sleep aids

  1. Magnesium: Known as the “relaxation” mineral.
  2. Holy Basil: An herbal supplement that creates a sense of calm by lowering anxiety. 
  3. Valerian Root: A popular herbal solution to improve sleep quality and relieve insomnia. 
  4. L-Theanine:  A relaxing amino acid found in matcha tea and available as a supplement. Clinical studies have shown L-Theanine to induce a sense of calm in patients with anxiety. At typical dosages (i.e. 100-200 mg), L-Theanine does not act as a sedative, but it does significantly improve sleep quality.
  5. Sleep-Promoting Herbal Teas: Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night Tea; Traditional Medicinals Chamomile with Lavender Tea; Traditional Medicinals Cup of Calm Tea; Yogi Bedtime Tea; Yogi Calming Tea
  6. Lavender: Smelling this calming herb can help you relax by slowing your heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and lowering skin temperature. Put a few drops in a diffuser and get ready to drift off into a blissful, deep sleep
Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Sleep Tight Tonic

There’s something about the combination of apple cider vinegar and honey that creates a sedative effect in the body. Here’s how it works:

Apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar)  releases tryptophan in the body, which is an essential amino acid that can be converted into serotonin. Serotonin— known as the “happy chemical”— is an important neurotransmitter that regulates mood and sleep. 

Honey releases serotonin, which the body converts into melatonin, a chemical compound that regulates the length and quality of sleep. Use raw honey when possible, as it contains more vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and phytonutrients than processed honey. 

The combination of the two, mixed in a hot cup of water, makes for a perfect relaxing evening tonic. Drink it as part of your nightly bedtime ritual and soon you will be sound asleep.

Print Recipe
Sleep Tight Tonic
The combination of raw honey and raw apple cider vinegar mixed in a hot cup of water, makes for a perfect relaxing evening tonic. Drink it as part of your nightly bedtime ritual and soon you will be sound asleep.
Course Tonics
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
serving
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. raw honey
  • 6-8 ounces hot water
Course Tonics
Prep Time 3 minutes
Servings
serving
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. raw honey
  • 6-8 ounces hot water
Instructions
  1. Stir vinegar and honey into hot water and sip until sleepy!
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Potatoes are actually good for blood sugar?

June 14th, 2018 | no comments

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Are potatoes actually good for your blood sugar?

Well, sort of. It depends on whether the cooked potato is eaten hot or cold. 

When a potato is cooked and then cooled, it forms a type of dietary starch called resistant starch– which means it passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested (i.e. it resists digestion) and therefore does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels after consumption. On the contrary, several studies (1, 2, 3) have shown that resistant starch may actually improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar after meals.

Guess what this means? Potato salad is back on the menu baby! (Check out my recipe below for Better-for-YOU Potato Salad)

Another noteworthy fact about resistant starch–it’s considered to be a very powerful prebiotic food! Prebiotics serve as “fertilizer” for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. I know you’ve heard me say it before, but it’s worth repeating: The collection of more than 100 trillion microorganisms living within your intestines, mouth and nose, called your microbiome, influences practically everything about you, including your:

  • Blood sugar level
  • Mood
  • Immune system
  • Sleep
  • Digestion
  • Body weight
  • Food cravings

So if you want to enjoy good health, glowing lab results, and consistently balanced blood sugar, it’s critical that you keep the good bugs alive and growing in your body. Check out this post on how to do just that!

Other forms of resistant starch you may want to add to your meal plan include: Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch (see this week’s product pick!), green (unripe) bananas, plantains, cooked and cooled parboiled rice and soaked and cooked/cooled legumes.

PS: Because there is always one (or 50) individuals who think “WooHoo! I can eat a bucket of potato salad at the next family picnic because Melanie said it’s good for me and won’t raise my blood sugar!” (I love you so much!) You still have to be mindful of your portion friend. A half-cup of potato salad… not a problem. A quart? Well, I think you intuitively know that’s not right. Right? 😉 

Mel’s weekly product pick:
Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch

Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch (NOT potato flour) is a form of resistant starch that ultimately becomes food for the good bacteria in your gut. It has a very mild potato flavor and can be added to cold or room temperature water, unsweetened nut milk, or blended into smoothies. To maintain the benefit of resistant starch in Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch, do not heat it above 130 degrees. 

It may be tempting to eat this stuff by the tablespoon…but hold onto your panties, because too much unmodified potato starch too fast can cause excess gas and bloating. To be on the safe side, begin with 1/4 of a teaspoon once a day and increase as tolerated up to one tablespoon per day. You may experience a little bit of gas and bloating at first, but you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Better-for-YOU Potato Salad

When I have a taste for one of my traditional favorites (i.e. potato salad) I like to go on the hunt for a nutritionally-upgraded recipe. At the end of the day, I want something that tastes good AND is good for me. After all, my body is my residence…and who wants to live in a messy house?

Traditional potato salad is made with soybean, canola, corn, or safflower oil- based mayonnaise. These oils are highly processed and create an inflammatory state in the body. Even those boasting of claims such as “made with avocado oil/olive oil” are still merely blends of those oils along with soybean and/or canola oils. They also contain hidden sugar and preservatives! Check out the nutrition label of Hellmann’s Avocado Oil Mayonnaise and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise with Olive OIl. Pretty sad if you ask me. The same goes for the Kraft brand of “mayo”. 

My favorite healthy oils are: extra virgin olive oil, unrefined coconut oil, and avocado oil.

I found this recipe for potato salad using homemade mayonnaise made with avocado oil (you could also use extra virgin olive oil) and adjusted it just a bit. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make this mayo…it literally took me less than five minutes!

This recipe suggests using a stick blender (also known as an immersion blender) and blending the ingredients in a mason jar. I totally concur, as I attempted the first round using my regular blender and it didn’t emulsify. Immersion blenders are relatively inexpensive– I paid $35 for my Cuisinart Smart Stick Blender at Bed Bath & Beyond. 

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Better-for-YOU Potato Salad
A simple red skin potato salad (with skin intact) made with homemade avocado oil-based mayonnaise. You can fancy this recipe up a bit by adding chopped hard boiled egg, carrots, and red peppers, along with a scoop or two of cooked lentils or black beans. 1 Earthfood per serving: ♥
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound red skin potatoes
  • 1/3 cup homemade avocado oil mayo You could also use Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo
  • 1 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
  • 1 pound red skin potatoes
  • 1/3 cup homemade avocado oil mayo You could also use Chosen Foods Avocado Oil Mayo
  • 1 tsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh chives, finely chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil, remove the lid, season liberally with salt and let the potatoes cook for about 15-20 minutes or until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and let them cool completely.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, prepare mayonnaise (see NOTES section below for recipe). Whisk together the prepared mayo, yellow mustard, apple cider vinegar, celery, onion, dill, and chives.
  3. Once the potatoes are cooled completely cut them into cubes and add them to the dressing. Gently toss to coat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

Click HERE for homemade mayonnaise recipe!

Nutrition Facts: Calories: 220Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Sodium: 140 mg; Potassium: 580 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 22 g; Dietary fiber: 4 g; Net Carbohydrates: 18 grams; Sugar: 2 g (no added sugar); Protein: 2 g

 

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