An international adventure does not feel complete to me without a trip to the grocery store. I love seeing how individuals of my host culture shop for their daily necessities and what they value, nutritionally. Plus, if the trip is a longer one, buying a few meals from the grocery store (if it's the right stuff) usually gives the digestive system, and wallet, a little break from all the indulgent restaurant foods. In this photo, we're enjoying a homemade breakfast on our honeymoon after a trip to the local market.
Here's what I look for when grocery shopping abroad:
I like finding nuts, high fiber bars, and fresh fruit to carry with me when I'm traveling. Nuts are pretty straight forward since they don't often have added ingredients (unless they're candied). As for reading nutrition labels on bars, in latin-alphabet languages, calories will usually look like a derivative of the actual word "calorie", or a derivative of the word "energy". Sugars tend to take the same place in a nutrition label worldwide, near the bottom of the list, above percentages of nutrients. When shopping for fruit, try to ask around (or research ahead) to know what's seasonal and remember to wash your fruit with bottled water if you're traveling somewhere with unsafe tap water.
As with meal planning in the states, I like to look for whole grains, clean proteins, and easy ways to sneak in vegetables. Most recently, on our trip to Spain, I made a veggie-based pasta with onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic. I added in some local sausage and it was a tasty, easy meal. Not only did it give us a little nutritional boost, the flavors were familiar, which can be a nice change of pace on a long trip.
I hope you'll enjoy incorporating this new tradition of a grocery run and home cooked meal on your next international adventure!
It feels good to be productive again after a good, long break for the wedding and honeymoon. Spending time with my new husband has been wonderful! Our wedding day went so smoothly, traveling to Morocco and Spain was very blissful, and setting up our new home has been exciting. We especially LOVED the food we ate (and ate and ate) on our honeymoon! While the countries we visited have some very fresh offerings, from Morocco's fresh mint and sweet dates to Spain's incomparable seafood and good quality olive oil...we certainly indulged in the not-so-beneficial fair as well. That's part of life! We work to build up resilient systems so we can afford to enjoy when the season calls for it, right?
And this new season of being home and getting back into the swing of things calls for a RESET! My body was craving more consistent healthy food by the time we touched down on American soil, so I'm grateful that the summer lends itself marvelously to cleaning up one's diet. We immediately found a local farmer's market (woo!) and stocked the kitchen. I'm going back to the basics: no refined flours or sugars. This automatically helps me to incorporate more fresh fruits and vegetables into my diet and gets me into my own kitchen (because let's face it--spending so much of my time in client's kitchens sometimes hinders my own meal prep energy). And while I usually allow for "free" weekends, in which I eat whatever I want because my appetite is controlled, I'm giving myself time to retrain that appetite and sticking to "whole grains and naturally occurring sugars only" for all 31 days of July (yes, I managed to eat well on the 4th!).
Interested in trying out this simple, whole foods reset too? For some inspiration, here's what was on my menu this week:
-Plain greek yogurt with homemade peach crisp
-A sprouted wheat bloop bloop sandwich
-Coffee with maple syrup and organic half and half (always)
-Organic, grass fed hot dog on a whole wheat bun (yes!) with homemade potato salad and watermelon
-Grilled steak and zucchini
-Peanut chicken and brown rice bowls
-Organic corn tortilla chips w/ organic shredded cheddar (aka nachos!)
-Peanut butter, banana, and cocoa "smoothie" (tastes more like a milkshake)
-Fruit juice and fizzy water
-Peaches! Peppers! Berries! I love summer produce.
It's recipe sharing time again! Today I want to put some white bean chicken chili on your tables. This dish is SUPER simple but does not compromise on health or flavor. Isn't it exciting when a dish fits the bill on all three accounts? Enjoy, friends!
White Bean Chicken Chili
1 T olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 organic green bell peppers, chopped
Generous pinch sea salt
Pinch black pepper
1 t cumin
1 lb organic ground chicken
8-10 oz jar good quality salsa verde
1 qt organic chicken broth
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
In a large soup pot, saute onion and bell peppers in olive oil over medium heat 'til onions are translucent. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Add ground chicken to the pot and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until pink color is nearly gone (chicken will finish cooking during the simmering process). Add salsa verde, chicken broth, and white beans to the pot. Bring chili to a simmer and leave simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Serve warm with organic white cheddar cheese and organic whole milk yogurt, as desired.
I have huge tonsils. It's true! My doctor once told me I could get them removed any time I felt willing to schedule a surgery (but who wants to schedule an elective surgery with a 6-8 week recovery?). Day-to-day my tonsils don't affect me too intensely, but if I get sick, they cause a pretty dramatic sore throat. There are a number of causes for sore throat and each cause will necessitate slightly different care, but there are a few ways to tend to the throat that applies across the board. If you or anyone in your care suffers from intense sore throats during cold and flu season or as a result of allergies, I want to share a few basic tips that are probably no-brainers today. But here's the thing about no-brainers: reminding ourselves of obvious care techniques can lead to actually applying that care consistently rather than keeping it in the realm of "should". Right?
Drink warm, hydrating liquids
The warmth will help any phlegm or other unwanted buildup to loosen and staying hydrated helps the lymphatic system to do it's job of ridding the body of toxins (not to mention the 9,000 other benefits of proper hydration).
Stick to an anti-inflammatory diet
This primarily means avoiding sugar, as it causes inflammation in the body (yes, even in the throat) and can also feed any unwanted bacteria growing there. [Note: if you have a sweet tooth and prefer warm beverages of the sweeter variety, you can add a splash of acidity if appropriate...for example, in the apple cider pictured here, I added a splash of apple cider vinegar.]
When all else fails, resting the body is one of the most healing things we can do for it...in fact, before all else fails, we should turn to rest. Especially in the case of a sore throat, less strain should lead to quicker healing.
Hopefully you're tucking these tips in your back pocket for prevention purposes, but if you are suffering from throat pain today, I wish you a speedy recovery! Happy hydrating, happy resting.
While celebrating the fact that my days of cooking for one are numbered (exactly 62 days of singleness left, to be exact!), I am still feeling the first-world burden that is a lack of nutritional variety when cooking for one. I like to keep my fridge and pantry stocked with nutritious options (obviously), but I find that my food often goes bad before I have a chance to eat my way through all of it! I especially notice this when I buy large quantities of fruits and vegetables. This has led me to be on the lookout for more durable produce...and here's what I've decided to keep on hand over the past few months.
Onions, garlic, and carrots are incredibly durable. Onions and garlic are also remarkably shelf stable with no need for refrigeration, as you probably know. Onions are naturally cancer-fighting and carrots are important for optical and hormonal health (two things for which I have a shaky family history). I also like to keep bell peppers around, though they last a little longer when I go ahead and caramelize them right after purchasing. Caramelized peppers and onions are great in Mexican food, as pictured, but also in Asian food, and with a simple meal of eggs and whole grain toast. If I haven't eaten through all of my caramelized peppers after 5 or 6 days, I know I can toss them in the freezer because they will defrost as single portions easily.
While apples and citrus are still in season (for a couple more weeks!), I've taken advantage of their durability. I'll take all the vitamin C they can give me! I also like keeping blueberries and strawberries around because, similarly to bell peppers, they freeze well. I'll snack on them for as long as they are fresh and just before they over-ripen, I'll transfer them to the freezer. Adding frozen berries to oatmeal in the morning is transformational. Not to be dramatic...
So what about you? What are your favorite durable fruits and veggies?
Are you prone to depression? "Woah! Jumping right into the heavy material today, are we?" Well, depending on which expert you consult, major depression affects 6-12% of the human population. And while the other 88-94% of the population may not deal with depression on a daily basis, it is likely that you have experienced or will experience at least one depressive episode in your lifetime. Now depression is not the only mental health concern that exists, by any means, but because it's so common and because I've personally suffered from depression in the past, it's where I want to keep my focus today as I address mental health rhythms.
Just like we have physical health rhythms to keep our bodies working right...getting daily movement, eating enough vegetables, etc., there are many other areas of health that contribute to our wholeness. Mental health rhythms would be those habits you employ to keep your mood and thought patterns in a sound place. As I mentioned, coping with depression has been a big part of my health story, so I got to thinking this morning about the rhythms I have in place to prevents its return. I practice these rhythms all the time, but when I feel depression begin to creep back in, I press into them even more diligently.
For me, it's all about balance. My mental health relies heavily on the balance between having enough "white space" on the calendar (or down time, to put it another way) and having enough stimulation and responsibility. In busier seasons, I strive to keep one evening per week completely free of commitments. I find that, especially as an introvert, I need that time to not only get a good night's sleep, but to wind down properly for that sleep. Simply put, if I become overly tired, I'm prone to depression. Over-isolation can also lead to depression for me, so in slower seasons (since I do a lot of my work from home), I require myself to get out of the house (ideally into fresh air and sunshine) and to have physical contact with another human being at least once a day. On top of tending to my physical and spiritual health, these guideposts go a long way for my mood and thought patterns. Sure, my rhythms are simple, but they do make all the difference for my mental health!
What are your mental health rhythms? Is this a season for you to create more white space or to get out and connect? I'd love to hear from you!
Did you know that March is the perfect time to enjoy a specific combination of fruits? When you think about it, we eat these combos all year long, but I'm bringing them to your attention today because they are TASTIEST in the month of March. Why, you might ask? Well, March marks the end of the winter fruit season and the beginning of the spring fruit season. Winter fruits like apples and oranges are still vibrant and flavorful before they go out of season while spring fruits, namely berries, are becoming quite sweet and ripe. Here are some of my favorite ways to eat these combos:
-Fruit crisp! Take your favorite healthy apple crisp recipe and add to it 1 cup of blueberries (subtracting one of the apples it calls for).
-Fruit salad! I'm particularly drawn to a mandarin, strawberry, and raspberry fruit salad these days.
-Baked oatmeal! This week, I’ve been enjoying an apple-strawberry-blueberry baked oatmeal for breakfast...so much that I want you to have the recipe. Here you go!
March-tastic Baked Oatmeal (Dairy Free)
2 c chopped apples
1 c chopped strawberries
3 ¼ c old fashioned oats
1 T cinnamon
1 ½ t baking powder
½ t salt
½ t nutmeg
2 3/4 c reduced fat coconut milk at room temp (other non-dairy milks work too)
½ c maple syrup
4 eggs at room temp
3 T melted coconut oil (not too hot)
1 T vanilla
1 c blueberries
1 T coconut sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9x13” glass pan. Spread chopped apples and strawberries across the bottom of the pan. In a large bowl, combine oats, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Pour this mixture evenly over the fruit. In the empty bowl, combine coconut milk, maple syrup, eggs, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Pour this mixture evenly over the oats, gently pressing down any oats that rise above liquid so everything gets moistened. Sprinkle blueberries and coconut sugar evenly over the top of the dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and set in the middle (should not jiggle when pan is shaken). Cool for 20 minutes before serving. Serve with unsweetened coconut chips, if desired.
What are you eating for lunch today? Sometimes I struggle with keeping my lunches interesting, but lately, I've been loving this formula for a well-balanced and appealing lunch...I prefer a snack-style lunch usually, but as long as I pack large enough portions, I find it to be totally satisfying. Maybe you'll try this out in the week to come!
1. Raw fruit
Recently seen in my lunch bag were organic berries, apple slices, cuties, and orange slices.
2. Raw vegetables
Cucumber slices, carrot sticks, or sugar snap peas are my faves...sometimes I trick myself into eating these by saving them for my commute home because that's when I'm most hungry!
3. Good quality cured meat
It can be difficult to find organic cured meat, so I look for deli meat, sausage, or jerky that's nitrate, nitrite, antibiotic, and hormone free whenever possible.
4. Whole grain crackers
There are lots of options here! Look for something that is 100% whole grain and sugar free. It's a plus if the grain is high-protein.
5. Hydrating water-based beverage
Fizzy waters are my favorite, but iced herbal teas or diluted, 100% juices are also fun.
6. Piece of dark chocolate
Always! Look for something that's made with stevia or beet sugar. If all you can find is organic dark chocolate made with refined sugar (often the case), I recommend eating less than 10g of sugar per serving.
Enjoy putting together lunches you can really look forward to in the coming week!
"What about alcohol?"
This is a question I'm often asked when advising a client to start a new nutrition approach. Sure, there are many instances in which alcohol should be altogether avoided. Those working on a major weight loss goal, a predisposition toward alcoholism, or a sugar addiction have to be particularly careful. But there are also many instances in which alcohol might be perfectly fine to consume in moderation. In fact, some of my favorite libations come with real health benefits! To name a few...
Whiskey is my friend when fighting a sore throat. The high alcohol content provides instant relief for a number of head cold symptoms. It could even be beneficial to the immune system long term! Researchers say that ellagic acid, the antioxidant found in whiskey is cancer-fighting. If reaching for this choice, watch your portion and choose organic if it's a corn-based whiskey.
Red wine has been known to help with cholesterol and heart health. Why is that? Well, certain red wine grapes can lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and polyphenols, the antioxidants found in red wide, guard against blood clotting.
Hard cider carries with it an instinctual "safe" factor...brought to our country by the pilgrims who found it safer to drink that contaminated water, it's still enjoyed by Americans today. Cider naturally has a lower alcohol content, so drinking a pint won't be a real threat to your system (if you're otherwise healthy and tolerant of alcohol). And while many alcohols are naturally gluten free, it's difficult to be sure with hard liquors that are made with a variety of grains. Not so with cider; it's just fermented apple juice, so the gluten sensitive are safe.
It has to be said that alcohol is a substance like caffeine or sugar...too much of a good thing can be taxing to the system. My recommendation is limiting your alcohol consumption to one drink, once or twice a week, depending on your body size. Your waist line and your liver will thank you!