Ways to Help Reduce Everyday Stress

We are surrounded by stress. The speed of life and technology in large part are responsible for a decent amount of that stress. Before, when you left work you left all the communication at work, now emails follow you home in the evening and you wake up to more work. 

You hear about meditation and yoga everywhere as ways to help reduce stress. And you might be thinking, but how… How am I supposed to take care of work, family, kids, and still have time to dedicate to meditation. That usually goes to the background. 

So if you clicked on this post, you’re probably wondering how you can reduce your everyday stress, so let’s just cut to the chase. Here are a list of 10 tools to use: 

 

1. Guided Imagining Visualization

Guided Imagining has been used for a long time in different indigenous cultures as well as Hinduism and as a part of Chinese medicine. It wasn’t until the 1960s that it was introduced by Joseph Wolpe. It has grown in it’s popularity since then and multiple doctors incorporated it into their practice. 

How do you do it? This method is taught by a professional and usually is a practice that takes 10 minutes a day and the course lasts from four to eight weeks. The goal of GI is to use images from your mind to help find ways to create symbolic associations with certain feelings. Essentially it’s accessing memories or images in your mind and linking them with a state of relaxation. 

It has been proven to help with depression, successfully reduce stress and aid as an anxiety treatment. It also has been known to help with pain management and even as cancer therapy. GI has been researched and proven to be beneficial through the decades. 

 

2. EFT

EF,T also known as Tapping has been introduced in the 90’s by Gary Craig. This method combines cognitive as well as somatic elements. 

How do you do it? EFT or Emotional freedom technique works by tapping on nine acupoints while saying affirmations or short phrases with important meaning while tapping. Based on the research, imaginal exposure when paired with acupressure can help reduce midbrain hyperarousal and reduces stress and anxiety as well as helps work through and reduce traumatic memories. 

EFT can help reduce pain perception, help with the way certain phobias affect anxiety and depression and even PTSD. 

 

3. Prioritize Sleep

Sometimes even taking a nap is helpful but it’s not something that can be easily done when needed. It is important however to prioritize sleep and a stable sleep schedule. We make kids have a bedtime, yet when we grow up we don’t think of it as nearly as important to be on a schedule. 

How do you do it? Well, we all know how to sleep. But there are a couple tricks that can make sleep better: 

-Turn off technology at least 30 minutes, ideally 60-90 minutes before going to bed. 

-Wear some blue light blockers if you have to use the computer late. 

-Create an evening routine that’s relaxing on it’s own and is focused on winding down.

-Read some fiction to escape this world and go somewhere different and stress free.

-Have the window open before going to bed to keep the room cool- cool air aids in better sleep quality.

Better sleep quality will aid in stress reduction just by normalizing the cortisol production cycle. Also, to provide a simple example of how much of a difference it makes, have you ever been so busy during the week and then had a proper night’s sleep on a weekend and felt truly revived… Imagine that, but every night. 

 

4. Transcendental Meditation

This meditation technique was first introduced to the west by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a scholar of the ancient Vedic tradition of India.

What is it and how does one do it? The Transcendental Meditation is a 20 minute meditation that you do two times a day with your eyes closed while saying a mantra. This matra is different to every person and is dedicated to promote a natural shift of awareness to the peaceful state while being awake. TM is taught by a certified teacher and it is taught in the form of a 7 step course. Through this meditation you can reach a state of transcendental consciousness, which is not quite an awake state nor sleeping. 

This technique can help improve brain function as well as attention. Studies have shown that this technique improves stress resilience in people who practice it. TM can also help in anxiety reduction, overall depression and stress management as well as better recovery from stress.

5. Journaling

You probably have heard this one before, and you might even roll your eyes right about now, but please, let me tell you. It’s not that different from therapy, but you can do it for free in the comfort of your own home. Sometimes just writing out your feelings and thoughts can help release them from the body onto the paper and that alone is so beneficial. 

Journaling can help reduce stress and manage the negative thoughts that are causing it. It can improve cognitive functioning and even immune system response! Who doesn’t want that? 

And if you’re thinking that you’re not much of a journaling person, I get it, there have been products developed specifically for you, like a 5 minute journal. Take 5 minutes out of your day to write down things that you’re grateful for and that bring you joy in your life and that can go a long way. Morning pages is another cool practice of free form writing 3 pages every morning as a stream of consciousness. That will take more time, that’s for sure, but I’m just providing you options and ideas and you can go for whatever works best for you, dear reader!

 

6. Healing Dance

You heard it right, dance as a way to de-stress. We know that exercise is a good form of de-stressing. You can dance in the morning when you wake up or when you’re taking a break from work in the middle of the day or at any time you’re feeling stressed out and you just need to switch the wavelengths. 

How do you do it? Turn on some of your favorite music, (if you have roommates or family members who you don’t want to witness your dancing, close the door) and just dance. Jump around, shake your arms and hands to shake off all the negative energy. It might feel silly in the beginning, but I promise you, even one song, 3 minutes of just dancing by yourself will make you feel so much better. 

It has been documented that music has soothing powers but combined with movement it helps release endorphins and make you feel calmer, happier and overall less stressed out. 

 

7. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Technically speaking, diaphragmatic breathing is the proper way to breathe, but breathing with our chest is just an easier and quicker way so we adapted to doing that. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. 

Diaphragmatic breathing is breathing deep through the stomach and it has been known to have so many positive effects. It helps you relax during the practice, brings down levels of stress and helps with sleep and digestion. It even has been proven to be beneficial for people with PTSD.

Practice this simple exercise to improve your diaphragmatic breathing:

  1. Find a comfortable position either lying on your back or sitting. If you're sitting down, make sure that you keep your back straight, have both feet on the floor, and release the tension in your shoulders by letting them drop.
  2. Close your eyes. Alternatively, you can keep your eyes open (and eventually you likely will) but closing your eyes helps you to focus on the mechanics of breathing rather than outside stimuli.
  3. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  4. Take a few breaths as you normally would. Does your belly rise and fall with every breath in (inhalation) and every breath out (exhalation)? If you can answer "yes," that's good. This is the natural way of breathing. If your belly stays still but your chest rises and falls with every breath, practice breathing by only allowing your belly to rise and fall when you breathe in and out.
  5. Continue to take deep breaths, concentrating on only moving your belly. As you take a breath in through your nose, imagine a balloon being blown up in your stomach. When you exhale, breathe out through your mouth as if you are blowing out through a straw.
  6. Continue as long as you would like.

 

8. Exercise

I think the only reason I didn’t put this one first is to keep things interesting. We all know that movement is crucial in aiding stress reduction. The benefits are vast and can be truly life changing. 

How do you do it? Exercise doesn’t have to be this huge overwhelming thing. If you’re already stressed out and you need to lower it, don’t overthink or overwhelm yourself! Go for something as simple as walking around the neighborhood, or going for a quick little jog. Consistency here is key. 

Exercise can help with cortisol control, and cortisol is a stress hormone. It helps release endorphins, improves sleep, helps with self confidence and can improve your metabolism. Find an activity that speaks to you the most and stick to it for a couple weeks, you’ll be amazed on how much can change in just a short amount of time. 

 

9. Prioritize yourself and say no more often

I want to clarify this one from the beginning. I’m not saying stop going out with people and being active. What I am saying is when you are asked to go do something, and you don’t feel like it, vocalize it. If you really want to be extra courteous, explain that your personal space needs extra peace right now and you need to listen to your gut and your body and do what’s best for you. It can be scary, but true friends will understand and people who find it convenient to be friendly with you might fall into the background and that can be good for your inner peace by itself. 

How to do it? “Hey Sarah, do you want to go out tomorrow night?” “Hey Megan, I’d love to, but i’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately and I think it’d be good for me to just sit this one out.”

The characters in this situation are subjects of my imagination and if that gave you a little laugh, I feel like my job has been done. 

 

10. Shower or bath

Don’t you get all your best ideas in the shower too? This one however is slightly more about baths and it goes back in time pretty far back. The bathing culture or bath houses back in Ancient Rome, Japan, Korea, Turkey, Russia and so many other countries. People would get together and go to a bath house to relax in hot water and talk to friends. 

Your skin can release endorphins in response to warm water, the same way it does in response to the sun. Have you ever got into a bath or a hot tub and just went “aaaaahhhh” that soothing moment that happens the moment you get into the water. Warm baths can improve breathing, help with blood flow in the body, and have therapeutic effects. 

I think for this one the ‘how to’ would be: fill up the tub with hot water, add some epsom salt, bubbles or a bath bomb of your choosing, get in and “aaaaahhh” and enjoy. 

 

Sources:

https://www.hsj.gr/medicine/stress-management-techniques-evidencebased-procedures-that-reduce-stress-and-promote-health.php?aid=3429

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3894304/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety#1.-Exercise

https://www.heal407.com/2019/01/11/movement-as-medicine-how-dance-can-help-with-stress/

https://www.fredastaire.com/blog/dance-away-your-stress/#:~:text=Dancing%20causes%20your%20body%20to,which%20in%20turn%20reduces%20stress.

https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-reduce-stress-by-deep-breathing-2797585

 

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editors: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio & Katie McKenzie


Improving vision in the world overloaded with technology

Do you spend the whole day in front of the computer? How many times do you check your phone per day? Do you wind down watching a show or a movie or playing video games? It’s not an attack on you, it’s the new reality that we’ve been living in for the past decade and so much so in the past year.

A recent study has shown that people check their phone upwards of 96 times per day! That’s more than 60% up from 2015. Technology did change quite a bit since then but the addiction to our phones also grew so much. 

Back in 2013 an average American would spend 9 hours in front of a computer, cell phone and tv screen.  See the comparison below with data from last year and the year before comparing the times spent with technology. 

TIME SPENT PER DEVICE –

PRE-LOCKDOWN

Daily:

Phone: 4 hrs 33 mins

Laptop: 4 hrs 54 mins

TV: 4 hrs 30 mins

Gaming device: 3 hrs 12 mins

TOTAL: 17 hrs 9 min

TIME SPENT PER DEVICE –

DURING LOCKDOWN 

Daily 

Phone: 5 hrs 2 mins

Laptop: 5 hrs 10 mins

TV: 5 hrs 9 mins

Gaming device: 3hrs 45 mins

TOTAL: 19 hrs 6 mins

And even though that seems like quite a bit of time and is not applicable to every person, we can agree on the fact that most of us definitely increased the technology usage for sure. And if you are feeling called out in this, I’m not sorry, because that’s the truth. Being stuck at home can do it. Last year was one for history books. 

Another important thing to keep in mind is the amount of time kids spent in front of the computer last year. With the pandemic and taking classes from home the screen usage by the young ones went up significantly.  

Let’s look at some myths about eyesight remedies first:

Myth #1: Eating a lot of carrots will improve your vision. While carrots are full of vitamin A that is known to aid vision and eating carrots is generally good for you, solely relying on them to solve all your problems is not a good strategy. Eating a balanced diet that’s full of nutrients is what’s truly good for you.

Eating a ton of carrots on its own can also make you sick and turn your skin yellow, so practice moderation when it comes to your carrot consumption.

Myth #2: Wearing glasses can make your eyesight worse. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones to wear corrective eyewear, know that it doesn’t make your vision worse or better, it simply provides a way to see things around you better. 

Myth #3: Eye massage or eye relaxation techniques decrease the need for glasses. Using hot or cold compresses or doing eye exercises can help in the moment and relieve eye strain that you’re feeling in the moment. It does not however fix your vision and the need for corrective eyewear. While you should use relaxation techniques when you’re feeling the eye strain it will not be a solution to long term eyesight problems that you have.

         Now, that we got through the myths, let’s get into the juice of this post and talk about the things that you can actually do.

There are a lot of ways to improve and maintain vision while using technology as much we do. 

10 Ways to keep your vision healthy:

  1. Eat your veggies. We talked about how eating carrots can improve your vision. Well, that's not wrong, but carrots are not the only vegetables you should be consuming. 

Vitamins A, C, and E are known to help in prevention of macular degeneration- a condition that causes vision loss in the macula. Zinc also is known to have vision improving qualities. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in the retina that are also found in food and can protect and strengthen macula. 

So, if you’re wondering what you should be eating, here’s a list of foods full of nutrients that are needed to protect and improve vision. And yes, carrots are on the list. 

Nutrients to improve vision can be found in these Foods:
Lutein, zeaxanthin Broccoli, brussels sprouts, collard greens, corn, eggs, kale, nectarines, oranges, papayas, romaine lettuce, spinach, squash
Omega-3 fatty acids Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, halibut, salmon, sardines, tuna, walnuts
Vitamin A Apricots, cantaloupe (raw), carrots, mangos, red peppers (raw), ricotta cheese (part-skim), spinach, sweet potatoes
Vitamin C Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, red peppers (raw), strawberries
Vitamin E Almonds, broccoli, peanut butter, spinach, sunflower seeds, wheat germ
Zinc Chickpeas, oysters, pork chops, red meat, yogurt

 

  1. Exercise. If you haven’t read any of the other blog posts you should, because exercise tends to be that miracle remedy to everything. Healthy diet and exercise can keep your blood sugar in check, as well as Diabetes, specifically type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is a diabetes that is also associated more with obesity and can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eyes.
  1. Sleep. It shouldn’t be a surprise that having a regular sleep schedule can improve so many things. When you are not sleeping enough and running yourself on low sleepy eyes get strained more and can feel dry and dusty. Having a regular sleep schedule not only can help with those but can also generally improve eyesight.
  1. Wear your glasses. Protecting your eyes is crucial, whether it is sunglasses or blue light glasses, that I really should’ve been wearing while writing this post.  Sunlight as well as blue light can be harmful to the eyes and investing in a pair of quality glasses is a good idea.
  1. Take screen breaks. We all heard that taking a minute to look around the room or getting away from your desk for a minute is beneficial for the eyes, but really, how often do you actually follow through with this rule. And no, taking a break from your computer screen to look at your phone is not a break. Yeah, you know what I am talking about. I’m not immune from that either. Sometimes work just flows, and then you look at the clock and it’s 5 hours later. The 20-20-20 rule is what’s recommended by optometrists around the world.

Take a break and look:

20 feet away

every 20 minutes

for 20 seconds.

This very simple rule can help prevent eye strain from computer screens and relieve fatigue, headaches, neck tension, and decreased vision.

  1. Get your eye exam. Having a regular yearly eye exam can help catch and prevent any potential issues. Adding an eye exam in your yearly doctor checkups can potentially save you lots of issues in the long run.
  1. Quit smoking, if you are. Smoking can increase the risk of a range of physical conditions, like optic nerve damage, cataracts and macular degeneration, that we talked about in the first point.
  1. Wash your face. Making sure that the hygiene surrounding your eyes is on point is very important. That applies to making sure your glasses are wiped clean and are not smudgy (your eye will unconsciously focus on the smudges and that can be stressful to the eye), cleaning your contact lenses if you wear those, and washing your face so there’s no make-up in the proximity of the eye.
  1. Manage chronic conditions. A lot of health conditions can play a part in your eyesight, such as high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis to name a couple. These conditions can create chronic inflammation and can affect your body in a number of ways, that include affecting your vision.  

This is when a healthy diet and lifestyle comes into play, along with the medications that your condition requires. I truly cannot stress enough how important those are.

  1. Know your family history. This doesn’t seem as an important one, but it is. A lot of eye conditions are hereditary, this includes glaucoma, retinal degeneration, macular degeneration and optic atrophy. Your family having those conditions does not equate to you developing them, but it definitely puts you in the risk group to develop them. The best way to go about those is by having a regular eye exam and taking the needed precautions.  

The truth is, implementing a healthy lifestyle with a nourishing diet, good sleep regiment and a workout routine (going on regular walks totally counts!) may not seem like a determining factor in eye health, but it is. This doesn’t cost you any extra money and doesn’t require you to buy anything new, like getting vision supplements, although those don’t hurt either.

If you are experiencing any issues with your eyesight the best thing to do would be going to an optometrist and getting that checked out. 

Sources:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-hea%20lthy/top-foods-to-help-protect-your-vision

https://www.nvisioncenters.com/improve-eyesight/

https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-improve-eyesight#vitamins-and-minerals

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


red wine cheersing

To drink or not to drink? Here's what you need to know about Alcohol

To drink or not to drink? That is the question. 

What is alcohol anyways? Alcohol is created when yeast ferments sugars in a variety of foods. Wine is made from sugar in grapes, vodka from sugar in potatoes and so on. The active ingredient in the ethanol.

The fact that alcohol affects your body is no secret. The whole ‘getting drunk’ thing is a clear indication of that. But what exactly happens in your body when you consume alcohol? Have you ever actually looked into it? I definitely haven’t until now. 

Let’s learn together! Basically your entire body takes a toll so we will start with the brain and make our way through the internal organs and to bones and nerves. I’m not joking when I say your entire body is affected. 

Brain. Alcohol can interfere with a lot of things in your brain. It can change your mood and behavior as well as make it harder to make thought through decisions. Your speech can begin to slur, alcohol can also cause you to have a blackout, you know, when you just have a blank for a night out and even hallucinations. 

Heart. When you drink a lot over a period of time, or even on a single occasion, it can lead to stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy. 

Liver. Liver is your “filter”. When the liver functions well it detoxifies chemicals, filters the blood coming from the digestive tract. The issues that can arise with regular alcohol consumption are fibrosis, cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis and steatosis.  

Pancreas. Alcohol can cause the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can cause pancreatitis. It can affect the digestion flow and cause inflammation and swelling of blood vessels. 

Immune System.  After the few previous categories, the weekend immune system from consuming too much alcohol wouldn’t be remotely surprising. When your immune system is weak though, there’s a higher chance of contracting illness. There’s also a higher chance of getting pneumonia and tuberculosis compared to people who don’t drink much. Even one night out with heavy drinking can make your body more susceptible to infections for 24 hours after. 

Cancer Risk. Last but not least, research shows that people who drink more have a stronger chance of developing certain cancers. Cancers that have been found to be associated with drinking are: head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer.

This post is not to scare you by any means, but make you aware and provide information. Like donuts or cake alcohol is not inherently bad or good. It is a substance and you should be educated about what you’re putting in your body.

Nonetheless moderation and balance is truly key in anything and alcohol is no exception to the rule. When it comes to drinking it’s also not the worst idea to know your genetics and predisposition to addiction. If you are a generally healthy individual a drink here or there won’t do much harm.

Creating a system that works for you can also help with balance. For example:

If you’re drinking on Friday night, maybe take Saturday off.
If you drink on a regular basis throughout the month, doing a sober month can be where you find balance.

You get the idea. Balance it out.

You also must’ve clicked on the link to see the ways to have alcohol while following a healthier lifestyle. I think it is time to talk about it. 

I feel like one of the common assumptions about people who follow a healthy lifestyle, work out and eat healthy is that they don’t drink alcohol. While it might be true for some people, and that’s the way they choose to do it, it’s not by any means a rule or a general assumption. I am also here to tell you that the two can live in balance together and not ruin your gains. 

Most and foremost I want to remind you that alcohol is its own macronutrient, just like protein carbs and fats.  Alcohol has 7 calories per gram and those calories can easily creep up on you if you’re having a fun night out. A shot of vodka is only 97 calorie, but 4, 5, 6 shots and it’s already a meal worth of calories. Your diet can be also potentially lower in sugar, so if you want to keep your drinking in tune with that, maybe go for liquor and not beer, champagne or wine (some of them but not all)  that can be higher in sugar. 

If you like visual aids, as much as I do, this image can help you get a easy and digestible visual for different alcohols and their calorie amounts. Let’s get into the logistics of it all and learn what makes one type of alcohol different from another. 

types of alcohol

The goal here is to now break down different types of alcohol and help you find your beverage of choice that won’t interfere with your goals.    

Beer. Beer is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages to be created going back all the way to 10,000 B.C. and was discovered by Mesopotamian culture and was later picked up in Egypt. Beer has been known to have the highest amount of carbohydrates, compared to other drinks. “Beer belly” is not a myth and drinking lots of beer can definitely make you gain some weight. 

In vino veritas.  “In wine there is truth”. And I do feel like the effects of wine have this communication enhanced and bonding experience. However, each person experiences different alcohols differently. Wine is full of antioxidants and polyphenols. Usually red wine would have more of those than white. Wine also tends to be higher in sugar than other drinks. Wine is known to have health benefits but those benefits are only applicable when you have a glass or two, not so much if you go for a whole bottle. 

Dark Liquor. Whiskey, bourbon, scotch and other darker liquors would be included in this category. Darker liquors usually have a higher amount of toxins. That means that your liver will have to work harder to process it and if you drink a lot chances are there might be a case of a hangover in the morning.  

Clear Liquor.  That will be vodka, tequila, gin and other clear drinks. These drinks will be digested easier than the dark ones and they also have lowest calories and sugar and is one of the easier ones for your body to metabolize. That is if you drink it straight and don’t add a sugary mixer. Duh. 

So we now know the effects alcohol can have on your body, you may have decided to switch to a different drink after reading about different alcohols or reinforced your decision to stay with your current drink of choice. Next question is…

How can you make it healthier? 

There are so many mixers on the market. A lot of them are full of sugar that you probably would want to avoid in large amounts.  So how can you make it better? 

Using club soda or sparkling water for a mixer won’t get you properly hydrated, so you should still drink water parallel to that, but as a mixer it’s a great, clean and 0 calorie benevage to add. Berries can provide natural flavors and will make it taste delicious with low calories and natural sugars and vitamins. 

healthier alcoholic beverage

Some other mixers that can be good:
-Kombucha
-Natural Juices (orange, cranberry, lime or lemon)
-Ginger Ale
-Flavored bubble water like LaCroix
-Extra ice to add some water
-Coconut Water

And for the flavor enhancements:
-Berries
-Fruit
-Veggies(cucumbers go well with vodka drinks)
-Matcha powder
-herbs for toppings.

If you decide to make a cocktail out of some of the ingredients above, let me know how it goes. And don’t forget to drink responsibly and safely. 

 

via GIPHY

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


egg yolk

4 Ways to Upgrade Breakfast

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of breakfast? Combinations like sugary cereal + milk, orange juice + bagel + cream cheese, donuts or blueberry muffins are some of the classic American staples that top the list. But what if I told you many of these morning choices are going to send your blood sugar for a wild roller coaster ride leading to an energy crash later and provide you with minimal nutrients compared to other options out there!

breakfast vs. breakfast

That’s why I’m here to send you in the right direction when it comes to the food you start your day with! Breakfast aka ‘break your fast’ should be a nutritious yet still delicious experience. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t go for some of the less nutritious choices in moderation. It just means that more often than not you should try to follow many of these guiding principles below!

Also, there is good news here! There are brands out there like Purely Elizabeth that make upgrades to some of these classic breakfast foods so you can still have your pancakes and leave feeling satisfied and full with a much more nutritious and higher protein experience! Essentially, you can have your cake and eat it too ;).

purely elizabeth pancakes

Breakfast Upgrade #1 - When it doubt, add a protein rich food

Protein is a very satiating macronutrient and important component of your breakfast meal. Things like adding in a high quality protein powder, going for eggs or adding in other protein rich foods can start to make your breakfast meal a much better choice. You’d be surprised to find out that actually starting your day with grass-fed steak & eggs is actually an extremely nutrient dense way to kickstart your day. I also love that Purely Elizabeth also has a high-protein pancake option too!

Breakfast Upgrade #2 - Don’t skimp on the fiber

Fiber is also another important addition to your breakfast meal that will help to regulate blood sugar and provide you with gut health benefits. There’s a reason why swapping oranges for orange juice is a great choice! The fiber from the whole fruit will help to slow down the absorption of the sugar so you don’t get this huge insulin spike than crash later. Additionally, it’s much harder to eat a lot of oranges but so easy to guzzle down 12 ounces of sugary orange juice. Fruit juices are also often stripped of many of the beneficial nutrients from pasteurization. Whether with veggies or whole fruit or nuts or another fiber-rich food, your body will thank you later when you start your day with fiber.

Breakfast Upgrade #3 - Add some healthy fats

Whether your goal is fat loss, muscle gain or just maintenance, dietary fats are an important part of a balanced healthy diet. Starting your day off with nutritious versions of fats is a great way to provide your brain and body with healthy fuel. Did you know your brain needs fat? Brain matter is composed of about 60% fat (when drained of water). Whether you’re going for a handful of nuts or incorporating Purely Elizabeth pancakes stacked with coconut & almond flour, there are plenty of nutrient-dense options out there for you!

4 - Skip sugary drinks and sub in lower-sugar options

Whether we’re talking about sugar-bomb frappuccinos, jamba juice sugary smoothies or fruit juices, all of these drinks have one common theme: a high amount of sugar, little-to-no fiber and extra calories all of which can hurt your health and your waistline in the long-run if you’re consuming them every day. If you view these drinks closer to dessert or treat options, then you’re on the right path.

For a more nutritious way to start your day, make sure you’re drinking tons of mineralized water and feel free to add in low-sugar drinks like tea, lightly-sweetened coffee or low-sugar protein shakes.

Now I know skipping things like french toast or pancakes might not sound like fun so I teamed up with Purely Elizabeth to highlight this nutrient dense alternative to commercial pancakes. Because I want you to live a healthy lifestyle but also have some fun doing it!

pancakes vs. pancakes


10 Benefits of Ashwagandha

If you’re keeping an eye on the new healthy things out there you probably heard about Ashwagandha. I don’t expect you to know what it is, I just hope that that word fell onto your radar at some point in the last year or so.
If you’re sitting here all like- Ashwa who? Do not worry, I’m gonna tell you what it is and most importantly why it should be added to your shopping list due to all of the amazing benefits that it has.
Ashwa-what?

Withania somnifera more commonly known as Ashwagandha is a herb that can be found in the Indian system of medicine. It can be used in a tonic to increase longevity and it has inti-stress agents.
Ashwagandha is commonly available as a churna, a fine sieved powder that can be mixed with water, ghee (clarified butter) or honey. It enhances the function of the brain and nervous system and has been shown to improve memory. It can help to improve the function of the reproductive system promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance. Being a powerful adaptogen, it enhances the body's resilience to stress. Ashwagandha improves the body's defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity. It also possesses potent antioxidant properties that help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals.

There are so many benefits to Ashwagandha - it’s amazing!

It is a medicine herb.
It has been used in medicine practices for a long time. It’s one of the most popular herbs used for relieving stress as well as increasing energy and helping with concentration.
Helps to lowers blood sugar
There has been some evidence that Ashwagandha increases insulin secretion and can also improve insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells. There also have been studies that suggest that Ashwagandha can help lower the blood sugar in both healthy people as well as people with diabetes.
Possesses anticancer effects
Even though most of the studies suggesting that have come from animal trials, there's a compound in ashwagandha called withaferin that helps induce apoptosis, which in its place helps kill the cancer cells. Withaferin also promotes the formation of reactive oxygen species inside cancer cells and disrupts their function. Throughout the animal studies it’s been shown to help treat multiple types of cancer such as breast, lung, brain and ovarian cancers.
There’s still no research on humans, however the current research on animals is promising.
Reduction in cortisol levels
Cortisone is a stress hormone and if the levels of this hormone are high it can have multiple negative effects on your health. There are multiple studies that show that Ahwagandha can help reduce the cortisol levels. There’s one study that shows up to 30% reduction in cortisol levels for chronically stressed adults.
Reduction of stress and anxiety
The stress and anxiety reduction is probably the most benefit that people notice from Ashwagandha. There has been a lot of human studies and the results have been very indicative of the benefits.
In one study that lasted 60 days with 64 people who were chronically stressed, those in the group taking Ashwagandha supplements saw a 69% decrease in anxiety as well as insomnia, compared to 11% decrease in the placebo group. Another 6 week study had 88% reduction in anxiety in the ashwagandha group versus 50% reduction in the placebo group.
Point here is that it’s worth trying it out if you are constantly stressed and looking for a way to lower your stress and anxiety levels.
Reduction of symptoms of depression
Even though there hasn’t been too much research done on the matter on depression, there are a few studies that suggest that Ashwagandha can help relieve the symptoms of depression. In the 60 day study with 64 participants, ones in the group taking 600mg concentrated ashwagandha extract showed a 79% reduction in the depression when the placebo group had an increase of 10%.
Could help increase muscle mass and strength
Even though the research on this one is still new, studies have shown that taking ashwagandha can benefit body composition.
One study showed gain in strength after taking 750–1,250 mg of pulverized ashwagandha and another study showed gain in strength and muscle mass as well as decrease of body fat amounts. These studies have been performed on men.
Reduces inflammation
Based, yet again, on animal studies, decrease in inflammation has been found. In human studies however activity of natural killer cells has been detected. Those cells promote general well being and help fight off infections. There also have been reductions in some markers of inflammation that are connected to heart disease.
In the controlled study, the group that took 250mg of ashwagandha per day had a 36% decrease in CPR (inflammation marker C-reactive protein) compared to 6% decrease in the placebo group.
Could help lower cholesterol and triglycerides
There’s some research that suggests Ashwagandha has cholesterol and triglycerides lowering abilities. Studies on animals have reported very good results with the reduction of up to 53% and 45% of cholesterol and triglycerides respectively. Human studies, though haven’t shown that drastic decrease, still came with a 17% decrease in cholesterol levels and 11% decrease in triglycerides based on the 60 day study.
May improve brain function
While most studies have been conducted on animals there are a few human studies that show the improvements in memory and attention due to regular supplementation of Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha promotes antioxidant activity in the body that fights free radicals. In the two studies participants took 500 mg and 300 mg twice a day and both groups reported improvement in the reaction time as well as task performance, memory and attention span.


The point is, there really aren’t many scenarios where the Ashwagandha usage is not recommended (ex.-for pregnant women) and it’s generally good for you, so there really isn’t anything stopping you from giving it a go. The benefits speak for themselves and if you don’t like it after a month or two, don’t take it. If you’re not sure if you should be taking it please consult with your doctor to be completely sure as I am not a medical professional and the advice in this post is based on the research that’s been conducted.

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


Does this spark Joy? Tips for Decluttering Your Space

Does this spark Joy? Whoever thought that would be a question to ask yourself when decluttering your space, I would've not thought of such a simple guide.

Have you ever felt like you got nothing to wear? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the amount of things in your house that you haven’t used in forever? Have you ever thought about decluttering your things? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this post is for you! And you might even know about Mari Kondo method from her book or the Netflix series that came out a couple years ago. 

Recently I’ve been trying to be more intentional about things that I have and learning to say goodbye to things that I don’t use anymore. I’ve discovered the book by Marie Kondo “The life-changing magic of tidying up” and the method that Marie talks about is really great! I listened to the full audible and I highly recommend check it out!

 

The rules of tidying based of the book are : 

Rule 1:

Commit yourself to tidying up.

Rule 2:

Imagine your ideal lifestyle.

Rule 3:

Finish discarding first.

Rule 4:

Tidy by category, not by location.

Rule 5:

Follow the right order.

Rule 6:

Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

 

The great thing about the Mari Kondo method is that it’s not necessarily about being more minimalistic but about having things, but only things that make you happy, or as she says spark joy. 

It’s also important to make it a full house project so you can go over everything and feel fresh once you’re done. And another important rule in the book is going over everything in the category. If you don’t bring out all your clothes to go over whatever you didn’t bring is out by definition- you didn’t care enough about it to bring it into the sorting pile, then it’s not that important to you. Which I feel like is some tough love but definitely a fair point. 

The order of decluttering your item goes as follows: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous), sentimental value items. 

There are many reasons to use this order, with clothes being usually the most time consuming of it so it comes first and then you move one category by one and leave the sentimental, which is the hardest part, for last.  

 

How the Marie Kondo Method change my life personally: 

trash bags

Here's a glimpse at part of the donation I made after following this method. I got rid of so many of my clothes even my husband, Chris was in shock! I realized there were so many things I felt "ehhh" or "meeh" about and it was actually bogging me down. So far the benefits I've seen from following her method:

  • It's been way easier to keep my bedroom, closet and car clean since decluttering
  • I wear more variety of the clothes, jewelry and purses since I have a much easier time picking between the few things I love
  • I feel lighter and less weighed down by things
  • I'm starting to take better care of things I do have
  • I feel more selective about new purchases but also happier when I pick out things I love
  • My husband was inspired to donate some of his things

You can snag Marie Kondo's book, The Magic Art of Tidying Up, here on amazon or try listening to it on audible!

Here were some the takeaways I got from the book:

 

Clothes:

Tops, bottoms, clothes that should be hung, underwear, socks, loungewear, bags, shoes. All of these make up this category. 

Off season clothes are a good starting point and then move onto the clothes you currently wear. Loungewear is a dangerous zone that can add up if you add things that you don’t see yourself wearing outside and instead demote them to loungewear. Truth is there aren’t that many things that are comfortable enough, maybe with an exception of t-shirts that are comfortable enough to be worn around a house. Loungewear and athleisure wear are thriving industries, especially during the pandemic, so this can be an excuse to get rid of some old things that you don’t like nor see yourself wearing and get some comfy yet visually pleasing home sets. Same goes for sleep wear. Having something that you feel comfy in but also looks great makes going to bed way more exciting. 

FOLDING IS KEY

Having clothes folded in a proper way so you can see everything you have is so important. It also makes you go through each and every item one by one and this can help in the understanding whether or not you truly like the item. 

How to arrange clothes? 

An easy way to figure out what to hang in your closet is to ask a question- does it look and feel like something that should be stored hanging up? Then organize them by category- coats, dresses, jackets, pants, skirts and blouses. Use your intuition to organize your clothes. 

You can use the left to right method where you store longest and heaviest items on the left and move to lightest and shortest ones on the right. If you feel like doing it by color, go for it. It’s about what makes it easy and accessible for you!

 

Books:

Books are also pretty hard to part with. 

Removing all books off the shelves and laying them down on the floor is the first step. Physically moving things and “waking them up” as well as touching them to organize them on the floor helps determine whether or not it sparks joy. Once all of them are on the floor you can then pick them up one by one and see if you feel excited when you hold it. If you don’t, chances are you don’t need it. 

She has a strong opinion on getting rid of books and only keeping ones that spark joy. 

Stop and think what purpose these books serve? 

Keep only the books that you’re excited to see on your shelf. 

Papers:

Rule of thumb- discard everything. Newspapers, the letter holder with all the letters, the bills you have piled, the invitations to events you never went to. The minimum amount people usually discard is 2 45 gallon bags. 

The few main categories of papers that you would need to have are: urrently in use, needed for a  limited amount of time, will need indefinitely. 

Then you take it one step further and divide it into papers to be saved and papers to be dealt with. Letters that require a reply, forms that need to be submitted. Keeping all the papers in one place is key. 

The point is to discard everything that you won’t ever need and organize the things that are needed like car ownership papers, insurance information, birth certificates and such in one easily accessible spot. It’s best to store things like that in a vertical file. 

 

Komono (miscellaneous): 

This category is the most confusing and overarching category of random things found all over the house. It can be pretty much everything and anything other than the previous few categories. Buttons, empty appliance boxes, little boxes with just stuff, freebies from events, calendars, you get the idea. There are so many things all over our homes. 

The order KonMari method recommends is as follows:

  1. Cd and dvd
  2. Skincare
  3. Make up
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances- computers, cameras and anything that can fall into the appliance category.
  7. Household equipment- stationary and writing materials, sewing kits…
  8. Household Supplies- medicine, detergent, cleaning supplies, detergent
  9. Kitchen good/food supplies- spachelas, pots, pans, blender
  10. Other- spare change, figurines, etc. 

The key to this category is to just do the entire category at a time. The truth is that you don’t need random appliance boxes, extra bedding for the guests that stay over once a year, extra buttons, random count, hair clips, and so so many more. If you don’t like it anymore, let it go. You’ll feel so much better. 

Sentimental Items:

This category is hard because they are related to the memories. However, holding on to these items doesn’t erase those. 

Photos and birthday cards, love letters from middle school, elementary school papers and so on. Items like this were enjoyed in the moment and were great there and then and no item can steal that memory from your head. It is hard because these are highly sentimental items, but will you really ever use them? Will having a box full of treasure items that is probably hidden in a closet be something that will bring you joy?
And don’t get me wrong, having those things is ok, making a decision on what things you really want to keep and what you can part with is the trick for this category. 

 

I think it's so interesting when decluttering is more emotion influenced rather than other methods that tell you to get rid of things if you haven't used them in 6, 12 months or 2 years. The benefit of this method is that you decide with emotions and feeling things that you want to surround yourself with. When everything in your home Sparks joy then there's a lesser chance of a rebound. My belief is that if you can't answer immediately what you need an item for and where it's gonna be stored you're not in a need for it. It's a combination of feeling and mindfulness approach to each new item.

 

How to better store your things? 

So say you went through every category and you decluttered. How can you now effectively store things that you decided to keep. You can always use the method that you've been using previously. 

Have a place for every item. It only takes one time to designate a spot for every item. If you add things that don’t belong it will slowly start piling up and adding up with the things that are not needed and don’t belong. 

Sort and organize by type of item or by person if you live with family members.

Organizing by person is the key because it's important to have a designated spot for every one and knowing that it's your personal space.

Store everything similar in the close proximity or in one space. Don't overthink it and try to organize each category by how often you use it. Or if you want to just go for 2 categories-things you use often and things you don't use that often.

Vertical storage is the key. Don't pile things-they will get messy really quickly and easily. 

Stacking also can be hard on the things on the bottom of the pile. Even with the fridge vertical method can help you see everything you have in the fridge. 

Kondo believes that having all the organizing tools and boxes and dividers is really not necessary to have a well organized home. Just having some storage containers or even things already in the house can help you organize it all better than any cool new gadget. Empty shoe box is a great example. You can store shampoo and conditioner under the sink in a shoe box, socks and underwear in the drawer to keep it organized and separated, you can use the top of the shoe box as a divider in the kitchen drawers and in so many more ways. Limit to a shoebox storage is truly your imagination. Another item that has a lot of options is plastic kitchen storage containers that can be used for the kitchen things to keep little things like jar lids or small tools all together.

So why should you do it?

The point of it all is that storing things and having attachment to items is usually psychological. Whether you can’t move forward from your past, or afraid to step into the future, or have deep sentimental attachment to your items, most of it is in your head.  Approach that Marie teaches is in no way minimalistic, but there have been studies that prove that letting go of physical possessions opens doors and helps find excitement in things around you. There is freedom in letting go of things that don’t serve you anymore. It will help clear your mind because you home will be clean and organized, I promise you that!

If you never thought about decluttering, you probably wouldn’t be reading this in the first place. So you did think about it, or even done it before. If you haven't read Marie Kondo's book  “The life changing magic of tidying up” then you should. It’s an easy fun read or you can find the show on Netflix. 

Let go of things that don’t spark joy and find happiness around you. 

 

Co-Written by: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio & Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


All About Fasting: The benefits, types of fasting + more

Let’s start with a bit of history. Fasting has been a practice done for centuries. It can be traced back to ancient greek times. Greek physician Hippocrates recommended abstinence from food or drink for patients who exhibited certain symptoms of illness. Through the centuries since then fasting has been used for religious purposes, ethical as well as health purposes. In this post I’m going to get into fasting for health and the benefits of it. 

Some variations of fasting are more extreme than others. It is definitely recommended that if you are very underweight or having an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, fasting will NOT be a good fit for you. 

If you’re at a healthy weight or overweight, fasting can have many benefits. Some versions may work better for you than others so make sure you listen to your body and do what feels right for you!

Food clock. Healthy food concept on black table background

There are few common ways that you can do, and I’m gonna dive into those:

(Disclaimer. I am not a medical professional. Information provided in this post is written based on multiple studies and is for educational purposes. I neither recommend nor discourage this way of eating, I simply share the benefits that have been observed through the studies. If this way of eating is something you’re interested in I’d recommend checking with your medical provider if you have any concerns)

 

1. The 16-8 method

fasting

This one of the most and most doable versions of fasting. Also known as the 18-6 method or 14-10. What this means is on every day basis you eat during the smaller “eating window” and fast the remainder of the time. 

 

[The first 4 hours of the fast are anabolic, meaning your body is converting food into glucose, amino acids and fatty acids that our body needs to have energy and  function efficiently. 

Hours 4-16 are catabolic, this is the time when the body starts tapping into the glucose from liver glycogen and fatty acids from fat stores. What does it mean exactly? Once the body exhausts the energy from glucose (from the carbohydrates that you consume) it moves onto using the energy from the fatty acids from food and the fat stores. 

Hours 16-24 are the fat burning hours. This is when glycogen becomes depleted, glucose from gluconeogenesis starts to rise and lipolysis breaks down fat stores and fatty acids are being mobilized for energy, liver starts to synthesize ketones from excess energy produced by fatty acids and oxidation. 

Yes, I said ketones. No you don’t need to follow a Keto diet to have your body create ketones. A definition of ketones according to WebMD:

“Ketones are chemicals your liver makes. You produce them when you don't have enough insulin in your body to turn sugar (or glucose) into energy. You need another source, so your body uses fat instead. Your liver turns this fat into ketones, a type of acid, and sends them into your bloodstream.

So what does it all mean in english? During these hours your body is no longer using glucose from the carbohydrates and moves onto using energy from the fat storage in the body. ]

Hours 24+ Ketosis state. Hours when the glycogen stores become depleted and your body is fully reliant on the fatty acids from fat stores to be used for energy .

 

These are the most common brackets for daily fasting and during the “eating window” you eat what you normally would eat during the longer time. You can decide what fasting window works the best for you and your lifestyle. 

A note to go with that is, if your goal is to lose weight focus on having a healthy nourishing diet during that time, rather than following the “eat whatever you want” strategy. Calories consumed over 15 hours or calories consumed over 4 are the same. 

 

2. The 5:2 method

the 5:2 diet

When following this diet you eat normally 5 days out of the week and fast (eat about 500-600 calories) on the other 2 days. 

There hasn’t been any studies to prove the effects of this particular fasting method, however there have been plenty of studies on intermittent fasting itself that found multiple benefits. 

 

3. Eat Stop Eat method

eat stop diet

Very similar to the 5:2 method but instead of having a little bit of food on the fasting days you don’t have any and fast for 24 hours 2 days out of the week and eat normally the other 5 days. 

The difference with the 5-2 method is that during the fasting days you can consume water, tea and coffee as well as other 0 calorie beverages. 

 

4. The Warrior Diet

warrior diet

With this diet you only have a little bit of food throughout the day and have one giant meal in the evening. This diet allows you a 4 hour eating window and consists of a lot of whole unprocessed foods. 

 

5. Spontaneous Meal Skipping. 

You can guess it from its name. This method does not follow a structured plan, rather than just listening to your body and if you’re not feeling hungry or you’re having a busy day and don’t feel like cooking and taking time to eat.  

The point is, there’s no one fits all like with literally any diet/way of eating. Some people thrive on 20 hour fasts while others can’t get it to 14. Important thing here is listening to your body and doing what feels good. 

 

So why even bother trying to get into intermittent fasting? What’s the point? 

The point is the benefits that this structured eating regimen will bring you. 

 

General health benefits:

Studies have been done on animals and humans and found multiple benefits of intermittent fasting:

Weight loss: limiting eating windows can help control the amounts of food consumed and aid in losing the weight. 

Insulin Resistance: intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance and lower blood sugar by 3-6%. That also aids in prevention of Type 2 Diabetes.

Inflammation: intermittent fasting shown reduction in markers of inflammation. 

Heart Health: intermittent fasting increases the brain hormones BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or abrineurin) and may aid in growth of new nerve cells. 

 

Affect on the hormones: 

Human Growth hormone increases rapidly that aids in fat loss and muscle gain. 

Insulin sensitivity improves as the level of insulin drop. Lower insulin helps in making fat storage available for energy use. 

Cells repair is triggered by fasting which removes old cells and replaces them by new ones.

 

What if I want to lose weight?

It has been proven to be a great tool in weight loss! Hormonal changes that are caused by intermittent fasting can help facilitate weight loss. Intermittent fasting helps burn fat and increases metabolic rate. 

 

Who shouldn’t be following intermittent fasting regiments?

 

Once again, this way of eating is not for everyone. There are groups of people who wouldn't benefit from it. If you have underlying health conditions, you should consult your doctor before adopting this diet. 

This is particularly important if you:

  • Have diabetes.
  • Have problems with blood sugar regulation.
  • Have low blood pressure.
  • Take medications.
  • Are underweight.
  • Have a history of eating disorders.
  • Are a woman who is trying to conceive.
  • Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea.
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.

All of these sound great! I don’t have any health related issues! Where do I sign up? 

It’s important to check with yourself if this is something that you feel ready to do. Is your relationship with food in a good place? If you don’t have psychological attachment to food this diet might just be for you. Starting small would be the best way to get into it. Start at the 13-16 hour fasting window, move up if you feel like that’s benefiting you and just see how it feels. 

Have you tried fasting? If so, do you like it and have you noticed any changes from 3 meals per day eating style?  Are you curious but scared you won’t be able to do it? Let’s chat about it! Feel free to share in the comments. 

Notes and links for sources, because science is important:

 

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1905136

https://www.verywellfit.com/the-warrior-diet-4684768

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/effects-of-intermittent-fasting-on-glucose-and-lipid-metabolism/8803CC1517F53CEF2BF8BFDC06A816D6

 

Case study: effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging and disease. 

Intermittent fasting helps with run the body without the sugar in the breaks between food

Knows to help with diabetes. Diabetes can be reversed with diet and fasting.

 

Reduced blood pressure

Reduces blood lipids

Reduces markers of inflammation

Reduces Oxidative stress and risk of cancer

Increase cellular turnover and repair 

Increase fat burning 

Increase growth hormone release

Increased metabolic rate 

Improves appetite control

Improves blood sugar control

Improves cardiovascular function and effectiveness of chemotherapy 

Shown neurogenesis

 

These benefits have been seen on generally healthy individuals. 

 

More advanced than general calorie counting. Not for a green person. understanding food and balance and only then.

If you gotta fast you have to work on relationship with food and have a good relationship with food 

2007 study by stout  with healthy individuals 3 meals per day vs 1 meal per day- same amount of calories

Unless you're diabetic or pre diabetic fasting gives you more stable blood sugar than eating small meals 

Increased protein synthesis 

Religion fasts because of health benefits.

It reduces tumor growth and cures cancer in animal studies. 

Fasting increases body's cells removal process.

Restricting meals gives body time to remove waste and not have to function 24/7 on 6 meals per day.

Psychologically food attachment

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide#simpler-lifestyle

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/effects-of-intermittent-fasting-on-glucose-and-lipid-metabolism/8803CC1517F53CEF2BF8BFDC06A816D6

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) RocchioAll about Fasting


6 Amazing Simple & Healthy Desserts

Here's to enjoying dessert on a regular basis while staying on track with your nutrient needs and goals! Of course it's totally okay to treat yourself to your favorite sweets every now and then, but eating highly processed junk food too often can lead to all kinds of problems. Now don't get me wrong- you can still enjoy plenty of delicious, sweet treats while also giving your body the nutrients it needs. Fruit is one of the best ways to satisfy any cravings for sweets you may have. There are even tons of upgraded chocolatey desserts that are so much more nutritious than their highly processed alternatives! That's why breaking down desserts and sharing 6 of my favorite upgraded recipes with you.

Don't be fooled by sugar bombs in disguise!

Highly processed desserts like the strawberry milkshake on the left may seem like an okay choice because they're fruit flavored, but the truth is that you'd be much better off eating the fruit itself. Not only do processed desserts contain artificial flavors, sweeteners, colors, and more, but they also come up short when it comes to giving your body nutrients. There are zero health benefits from consuming sweets like the highly processed milkshake on a regular basis. However, when you eat real fruit (even if you ate all 3 plates of strawberries), it provides your body with vitamins and minerals, natural sugars, and fiber which helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Additionally, it would be much more difficult to consume all three plates of strawberries than it would be to drink the milkshake with the same amount of sugar.
But that doesn't mean that plain fruit is the only healthy dessert option out there! There are so many ways to satisfy a sweet tooth while staying on track with your goals. A few simple dessert options like fruit with chocolate, nuts, or nut butters are great for when you're short on time or ingredients. However, if you're looking to switch it up and add some new dessert recipes to your routine, I got you covered.  Weather you prefer tangy, fruit flavored sweets, classic combinations, or rich and chocolatey goodness, you will love these 6 Simple and Healthy Dessert Recipes!

Looking for something tarte and satisfying? These Vegan/Paleo Cheesecakes are perfect for you!

These delicious, mini cheesecakes won’t let you down. I love that they're in pre-portioned sizes and you can customize them however you want! I used blueberries but feel free to substitute your favorite fruit like raspberries, blackberries, etc. This recipe makes about 10 servings. Thanks to minimalistbaker.com for her vegan cheesecake recipe that made it super easy to make this version! Full instructions below:

What you need for the crust:
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup packed pitted dates

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups quick soaked cashews (*boil a pot of water and pour the boiling water onto the cashews. Let soak for an hour)
1/3 cup coconut oil melted
2/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 large lemon, squeezed
Blueberries (optional)

What to do:
1 - Add the pitted dates to food processor. Blend and set aside.
2 - Add the pecans. Process until smooth then add the dates back in and process to make the crust.
3 - Get out a muffin tin. Spray with oil and pack 1 tbsp of the curst into each tin ( 10 tins total)
4 - Add the cashews, coconut oil, maple syrup, coconut milk and lemon to the food processor. Blend until smooth.
5 - Evenly distribute into muffin tins.
6 - (optional) Add 1-2 cups blueberries to the food processor. Blend until smooth then add a layer to each cheesecake.
7 - Freeze for at least 2 hours up to 4 hours and then enjoy. (Note: helps if you let sit out for a few minutes then use a knife to cut around the rim and pop out)

Calories per mini cheesecake (doesn’t include blueberries): 360 cals, 5g protein, 30g carbs, 27g fat

Get creative with this refreshing and sweet treat!

I love colorful, fun snacks and this is perfect for hosting parties or just giving yourself a fun, healthy treat! Watermelon isn’t just delicious, it also has plenty of health benefits. Aside from being super hydrating (92% water), it also has 21% of your vitamin C, 18% of your vitamin A And 5% of your potassium. Watermelon is also full of antioxidants including Carotenoids, Lycopene & Cucurbitacin E. Instructions below:


What you need:
1 watermelon slice
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Handful of strawberries
Handful of raspberries
Handful of blueberries
1/2 tbsp of Mint

What to do:
Step 1: Cover the watermelon slice with Greek yogurt.
Step 2: Add the berries.
Step 3: Add the mint.
Step 4: Cut into slices.
Repeat for however many servings you want!

These sweet potato brownies are extremely decadent!

While is perfectly ok to treat yourself to the real deal every now and then, going for a healthy, homemade version on a regular basis will not only help your weight loss journey but will help also help your overall health. The homemade version is lower in sugar, higher in fiber and replaces white flour with coconut flour. Honestly I think this homemade version of these brownies are delicious AF.
What you need:
(To make 8 servings)
1 sweet potato
3 eggs, whisked
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw honey
3 tbsp coconut flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup dark cocoa chips
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
pinch of salt (optional)
What to do:
1- Bake sweet potato. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Poke holes with fork & bake for 25-35 minutes or until soft.
2- Once the sweet potato is soft, peel off the skin & mash it with a fork in a bowl. Turn your oven down to 350 degrees.
3- Add eggs, coconut oil, honey and stir together
4- Add dry ingredients: coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and chocolate chips. Mix well.
5- Pour into an 8x8 glass baking dish
6- Bake for 30-35 minutes.
7- Let cool & enjoy!

If you like bananas, these banana popsicles are perfect for you:

These are not only hella delicious but also hella easy! Pretty much everyone I know can appreciate the classic banana & chocolate combo, so I thought I’d share these delicious way to take it to the next level. The best part about these is that you can have fun with the toppings and add whatever you like.
What you’ll need:⁠⠀
Popsicle sticks⁠⠀
6 bananas⁠⠀
1 bag chocolate chips ⁠⠀
½ tbsp coconut oil ⁠⠀
Toppings:⁠⠀
Coconut flakes ⁠⠀
Granola⁠⠀
Goji berries⁠⠀
Pistachios⁠⠀
Pomegranate seeds⁠⠀
Peanut butter ⁠⠀What to do:⁠⠀
1- Cut the bananas in half and insert 1 popsicle stick into each one. ⁠⠀
2- Melt the chocolate chips and coconut oil on the stovetop or in a microwave-safe bowl. ⁠⠀
3- Pour the chocolate into a mason jar. ⁠⠀
4- Dip each banana pop into the chocolate and set aside onto a plate with parchment paper. ⁠⠀
5- Add your desired toppings! ⁠⠀
6- Place in the freezer for at least an hour and a half.⁠⠀
7- Dig in! ⁠⠀

This upgraded version of the classic chocolate chip cookie is sure to impress:

Who doesn’t love a healthy dessert recipe?! I’m so happy that @itskitskitchen (check out her recipe page!) came up with this very innovative combination and allowed me to share it with you! It is such a satisfying combination and is made of all whole food ingredients! Full instructions below:⠀
Ingredients:⠀⠀⠀
1 cup packed blanched almond flour⠀⠀⠀
2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk⠀⠀⠀
2 Tbsp maple syrup⠀⠀⠀
1 tsp vanilla extract⠀⠀⠀
¼ cup chocolate chips⠀⠀⠀
*option to add some stevia too if you like it sweet⠀⠀⠀
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What to do:⠀
1. Mix almond flour, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract and stevia in a bowl.⠀⠀⠀
2. Mix in chocolate chips.⠀⠀⠀
3. Roll in 7 balls. ⠀⠀⠀
4. Enjoy right away or refrigerate for a thick cookie ball.⠀⠀⠀

Looking to switch it up? This avocado paleo pudding is so rich, creamy, and easy to make!

If you’re looking for a cleaner way to satisfy your sweet tooth, here’s a great option. Avocados are packed with fiber, potassium, vitamin k, folate & vitamin C and help give this treat its creamy texture. This also makes a great dip or mixture for fruit if you’re looking to keep your calories a little lower by not opting for a big serving size!

Note: Depending on how sweet you like it, you could add more or less honey or some stevia if you’re looking to keep sugar lower.

Ingredients:
2 ripe avocados
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2-4 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp water
Sea salt (optional)
Stevia (if you opt for less honey)Instructions:
Blend all ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender. Serve with fruit if desired.Makes about 2 bigger servings or 4 small servings that can be enjoyed with fruit.

These are just a few of my favorite dessert recipes but they're guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth! I'm always looking to try new recipes, so please share your favorites in the comments below!
xx,
Amanda

Morning Routine: 6 practices that most successful people do each day.

Last week I promised to tell you about 6 morning rituals that will increase productivity and help you be less depressed and anxious, more productive and feeling overall better? Well, I don’t want to make you wait any longer, so let’s dive right into it!

Do you know about this guy Hal Elrod? If you do, feel free to skim through this part, however if you don’t sit back, relax and let me tell you a bit about him. I promise, this part is important. 

Hal Elrod is an interesting guy who survived some things a lot of people wouldn’t. When he was 20 years old he died in a car accident. Legally, he was dead for 6 minutes. His legs were paralized, spent a week in a coma, doctors told him and his family that there’s barely any chance he’d be able to walk ever again. 

Hal accepted his faith and set a mindset that he’d be the happiest person in a wheelchair.. He was able to walk within 3 months of the car accident. 

You can find more about his full story online. 

Fast Forward a bit to when the financial crisis hit in 2007. Hal lost pretty much everything- job was gone, he couldn’t pay for the house and got more depressed than ever in his life, which is understandable in the circumstance, a lot of people were during those times. 

In the midst of his depression his friend recommended to go on a morning run and listen to a self-help motivational book. Hal laughed, not being a runner or having any interest in running, but did it anyways, and during the first run he went to listening to Jim Rohn’s book and heard a quote: 

Your level of success will rarely exceed your level of personal development because success is something you attract by the person you become.” 

That was the quote that changed his life moving forward. He came home from the run and began his research on personal improvement techniques. 

He discovered 6 practices that most successful people do each day. However similar to what we saw in the CEOs mornings, some of them did the same things, and some did other things. In the end of it all it was these 6 that were the most consistent showing up in his research. The trick was that some did 2-3-4 out of six but no person did all 6 of them each day..

The question came up- what would happen, if one would do ALL of them EVERY day?

Hal abbreviated them into: 

SAVERS

silence   -   affirmations   -   visualisation   -   exercise   -   read   -   scribe

SAVERS

Silence- more commonly known as meditation, being present in the moment and focusing on breathing, calming the mind and relaxing the body to cleanse the negative energy. That’s what meditation is. 

Affirmations- yes, affirmations. You’re probably thinking-it started good, but now we’re moving to some silly motivational phrases that are so hard to believe in. Hear me out! I myself find affirmations as silly as every other person out there, but the truth is that they DO work! I’m not talking about getting into a power stance and saying something like “I attract money, I am a magnet for money, money gravitates towards me!” followed by sitting on the couch doing absolutely nothing waiting for the mentioned money to appear out of thin air. What i’m talking about is writing down reminders of how capable you are, how far you’ve come and the goals ahead as well as steps to achieve them and why they matter. Using affirmation to keep yourself on track, add drive and motivation and re-energize yourself to achieve your potential!

Visualisation- whether you create a vision board, write what you desire in a journal or simply close your eyes and imagine it, visualisation is a powerful tool. If you imagine the way your day is going to go in your head all you need to do is just stick to what your brain created for you-positive, productive, good day with the family you love, work you enjoy doing and activities that make you happy.  I do understand that things can come up and throw the initial plan off but it is up to you to decide what kind of day to have. External events will happen every single day but it is up to us to either let it affect a good day ahead or adjust and keep on going! 

Exercise- or simply moving your body. So many of us have desk jobs and our bodies were created to move. It doesn’t matter if it’s a walk, time in the gym, some crunches on the floor next to your bed. Every little bit counts and every little bit is better than none. 

Read- that one is pretty straight forward. Grab a book, read a little bit. It can be for fun, educational, it really doesn’t matter. A few pages every day will add up fairly quickly though and next thing you know you read about 20 books in a year. 

Scribe-  fancy word for writing, aka journaling. You can spend some time with your thoughts or simply list a few things you’re grateful for. This can help you feel empowered, in tune with your thoughts and feelings, inspired  and grounded. 

Before you come in saying that that’s a lot of things to do in the morning, let me jump in for a second. Yes, it is a lot! You don’t have to spend hours on each one thought- that would take the whole day. You can designate an hour, 30 min, even do a 6 minute routine with only spending one minute doing each thing. If getting out of bed early seems just impossible you can also start doing good four rituals out of six while still in bed. 

The community that Hal built is absolutely amazing and so many people have experienced their life changed for the better since implementing the miracle morning. 

If all this is something that you want to pursue learning more about Miracle morning there are books that he wrote as well as a movie that came out in December of 2020. In writing of this blog post I did give it a watch and it’s a good summary of the book with interviews of successful people using this practice. I will have it all linked down below if that is something you’re interested in!

Now what? You might ask. That all is great, but how do I implement those practices into my life? 

You’ll find out more in Part 3!

By Co-Author (Primary): Karina Movsesova

Editor: Amanda (Meixner) Rocchio


6 Tips to Make Healthy Eating at Home a Little Bit Easier

One thing I often hear when it comes to healthy eating is that it’s too complicated, expensive, or time-consuming. The truth is that eating healthy looks different for everyone, but it definitely doesn't need to be costly, take forever, or be overwhelmingly complicated. There are so many ways to simplify your meals and streamline the cooking process to save you both time and money without sacrificing the quality of your food. That’s why I’m sharing 6 simple hacks that can help make healthy eating more sustainable and of course, delicious. ⁠

So here are 6 Simple Ways to Make Healthy Eating Easier: ⠀


⁠⠀
1- Buy pre-cut veggies.

There’s no rule that says vegetables are only healthy if you cut them yourself! Obviously it's important to be mindful and try to limit the amount of plastic wrapped items that you purchase, but if buying a few pre-cut vegetables means that you eat a healthy meal rather than a processed takeout meal that still uses packaging- I say do it. Buying certain vegetables pre-cut can save you lots of time and make the idea of whipping up a healthy meal a lot less overwhelming which is a win. ⁠⠀
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2- Invest in a few practical kitchen tools.

Gadgets like an egg cooker, air fryer, instant pot or food processor can make meal prepping at home so much easier and quicker. Not only does my egg cooker boil eggs fast AF, but they’re also perfect every time. Everyone has their favorites go-to meals and when it comes to meal prepping, it's so worth it to invest in tools that make those meals even easier to make on a regular basis.
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3- Choose recipes that use simple, common ingredients.

Taking the time to plan out your meals for the week and coordinating them to have an overlap of ingredients is one of the best ways to eat healthy on a budget, while also cutting down on food waste! This process will also make grocery shopping so much smoother and it’s a fun way to get creative in the kitchen by using the same ingredients in different ways.⁠

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4- Use spices to create flavors you love.

While I definitely love the taste of many raw vegetables, seasoning can make a huge difference when it comes to making a nutritious meal that you will savor and enjoy. Have fun with different spices and find combinations you love! Don’t be afraid to add some sea salt either.⁠⠀
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5- Meal prep ingredients you use often.

While meal prepping entire meals is fantastic, it can also save you lots of time to meal prep specific ingredients that you use often. For example, if you know that you tend to use a lot of chopped mushrooms and bell peppers in your food, it would be helpful to chop up some extra and have it ready to go for the next time you’re cooking. This saves so much time throughout the week and makes cooking delicious, healthy meals at home much more attainable.   ⁠⠀
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6- Freeze herbs in olive oil for easy cooking.

Just like some people freeze pieces of fruit in water, freezing herbs in olive oil is a great hack to maximize the life of your produce and add flavor to your food. Not only does this make cooking a bit easier, but it’s also a great way to preserve your herbs before they go bad! When you’re ready to cook, simply pop a cube or two out of an ice tray and you’re good to go! ⁠⠀
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I hope these tips help meal prepping easier and a bit more fun!
Xx⁠⠀
Amanda ⁠⠀