Morning Health Mistakes You Might Be Making

It seems like every blogger, influencer, & self-help author has some morning habit that you simply MUST adopt to become the healthiest version of you. And that advice is put out there with the best intentions. But are these habits truly all they’re cracked up to be? Here are some popular morning habit mistakes that you could be making.

1. Going overboard with your smoothie

Smoothies can be a great option for breakfast on-the-go and for getting some added fruits and veggies in. But it is very easy for that smoothie to get out of control. Excessive fruit and fats and servings that are too large are very common pitfalls. Another issue is making your smoothie too thin to be satisfying so you become ravenous later and derail your healthy diet.

Instead: Keep your smoothies to just 1 cup of fruit, add some veggies, and keep your portions on the smaller end of things.

2. Skipping breakfast

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day because it provides you with the nutrients you need to get your day going at your best and can help keep your body’s cortisol levels (“stress hormone”) closer to their normal range. Studies have also shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to weight less than people who skip it because it helps keep your hunger more manageable throughout the day.

Instead: If you’re not a breakfast person, try to just have something small but healthy to hold you over until you can have something more substantial. Some almonds or a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter are good options.

3. Taking a something-is-better-than-nothing mentality towards breakfast

While whether or not you eat breakfast is important, WHAT you eat for breakfast is just as important. Starting your day with a sugary donut is going to spike your blood sugar levels and it won’t keep you feeling full for very long.

Instead: Focus on eating whole foods that are high in fiber and protein. This will keep you feeling full longer.

4. Reaching for some juice

It’s made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right? Not so fast. Juice is fruit without the fiber. So, yes, you’re getting some of those nutrients, but you’re also drinking a big glass of sugar with no fiber to buffer it. That can add up to blood sugar issues and weight gain over time.

Instead: Have some water and put some fruit in it to infuse it with the flavor, like lemon, lime, or berries.

5. Having a bowl of “healthy” cereal

Here’s the thing about cereal, most options have too much sugar and not enough fiber and protein in them to be worth it.

Instead: Try some oatmeal (unflavored) with plain yogurt and fruit instead.

The Truth about Juice Cleanses and Detoxes

Juice cleanses and detox programs are still all the rage – with nearly every holistic company pushing one and even local cafes creating their own. They claim they can help you lose weight, rid your body of toxins, restore your pH, give you more energy and help you sleep better, make you stop craving junk food – the list goes on and on. But are these (often really expensive) programs all they’re cracked up to be?

The short answer is “no.” Living off of juice for a week is not going to result in any lasting improvements to your help. On the contrary, it could actually do more harm than good.

The Problem with Cleanses and Detoxes

The first issue with juice cleanses is that they’re juice. When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you eliminate all of the fiber in that plant. That leaves you with very little if anything to buffer against all of the sugar in it. Essentially, you’re drinking straight sugar with some vitamins and minerals added to it. Subsisting off of this alone and not balancing it with food containing protein and fiber can result in unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar that stress your body out. Sustained high levels of your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, have been linked to a host of health problems, not to mention retention of abdominal fat. Add to this the fact that, since juice does not satisfy hunger,  you are likely to over consume it when you’re already taking in far more sugar in a glass of orange juice than is in one orange.

Another factor that makes these cleanses more of a problem than a solution is the impact they could have on your metabolism. While restricting calories in the very short term might make you drop a few pounds, over time severely restricting calories for a week or on and off again over time can slow down your metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight. Not to mention, many people will overcompensate by overeating once they are back on regular foods again, making them gain back what they may have lost and then some. I bet they didn’t advertise that on the box.

The final nail in the coffin for juice cleanses and detox programs should be that they are completely unnecessary and there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. Your body already has a highly-efficient detoxification system built in. Your body is not a swamp full of toxins. You do not need to starve yourself for a week to help support your body’s detoxification system. On the contrary, doing so can deprive your body of the nutrition and energy it needs to do its cleanup job.

So What Should You Do?

If you truly want to support the health of your body and keep it as toxin-free as possible, eat an organic, plant-based, whole foods diet. Eat lots of plants, drink lots of water, avoid pre-packaged, processed foods, and, when you do eat meat, make sure it is clean, quality meat not treated with all kinds of antibiotics and hormones. Doing this will give your body the right kind of fuel it needs to support ongoing health.

 

 

Product Review: Simply Lite Sugar Free Dark Chocolate

A sweet tooth is one of the biggest struggles I see with people who are trying to lose weight or eat healthier. Dark chocolate carries several health benefits but many of them are lost or cancelled out when lots of sugar is added to the products. Now, I typically steer well clear of anything labeled “sugar-free” because I don’t do artificial chemical sweeteners, but I picked this up and saw that it contained none so I figured I would give it a try to see if it could be an alternative for chocolate lovers.

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How is it sugar-free?

Rather than sweetening this product with sugar, Simply Natural Foods sweetens the chocolate bar with sugar alcohols, maltitol specifically. Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar because they cannot be easily absorbed by your body. Maltitol in particular contains about half the calories of sugar but has a higher glycemic index than other sugar alternatives but a lower GI than sugar.  Therefore, it’s important not to overeat foods containing sugar alcohols and diabetics may want to consult with their physician on such products. Another factor that may persuade you to consume sugar alcohols in moderation is that they very often can have a laxative effect due to their poor absorption rate. In fact, the label on these chocolate bars contains an advisory to that effect.

How Do Simply Lite Bars Compare to Others?

I was curious about just how much of a difference there was between this and other comparable bars. So I put together a chart of other bars with similar cacao proportions and calculated each out to a 25 gram serving.

simply lite 100 cal 15g carbs 0g sugars

As you can see, Simply Lite indeed contains fewer calories (but not a lot fewer) but slightly more carbohydrates than other bars. The product label includes a net carb calculation that subtracts both the grams of fiber (3) and the carbs from the maltitol (11) from the total carb count, leaving 1 g of net carbs. It states that they subtract maltitol’s carbs from the total because “its conversion requires little or no insulin and does not cause an appreciable increase in serum glucose levels”. As stated above, it is true that maltitol bears a significantly lower glycemic index than sugar, but it is important for diabetics to take into account their total carbohydrate consumption. However, for those watching carbs as part of their diet (keto, South Beach, what-have-you), the net carb count is helpful.

Flavor and Texture

I didn’t dislike the flavor of the Simply Lite bar but it was obviously different from a sugar-sweetened bar. Ever so slightly less sweet perhaps? Hard to put my finger on but my thought was “meh”. It doesn’t have a chemically taste though, which is nice. The texture is on the drier, more crumbly side than other bars. It reminded me a little bit of the texture of Mexican stone ground chocolate. It lacks that creamy, satisfying mouth feel that other chocolates have but part of that is due to the cacao concentration – the more cacao, the less creamy and the more bitter.

Inulin

One of the ingredients listed on this product is inulin, a vegetable fiber that is commonly added to processed foods to increase their fiber content. This may be why Simply Lite’s fiber content was slightly higher than that of other chocolate bars. This higher fiber content also lowers the net carbs and glycemic impact of the food. One thing to note about this ingredient is that overeating it can also cause some gastrointestinal upset, including gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

In Conclusion

While this bar may be an alternative for those with a sweet tooth who are looking to cut down their sugar intake, there are several trade-offs made with Simply Lite’s chocolate bar. With two ingredients known to cause gastrointestinal upset when consumed too much, it’s important to limit your consumption of this product, unless you don’t mind some extra time in the bathroom. The taste and texture are definitely not the same as “the real thing” so some may not be big fans of this alternative. My final verdict on this is that I would rather buy regular dark chocolate and make sure that I’m enjoying it in small amounts.

What to do with the Halloween candy scaries

If the thought of storing several jumbo bags of “fun-sized” candy in your house for the next couple weeks has your despairing, if you’re wondering how you’re going to resist eating your child’s candy loot, if you’re thinking of just skipping Halloween for the sake of your diet altogether, then read on. If not, power to you, but read on anyway in case you know someone this would be helpful to 🙂

Halloween is just the first of several upcoming holidays known to fill our homes with less-than-healthy temptations. From the giant bags of candy you buy to pass out to the trick-or-treaters to the orange bucket of candy your own child brings home, this can be a tough time for those of us looking to watch our waistlines, reduce our sugar intake, or just eat healthier in general. So here are my tips for having fun this spooky season without going off the rails completely.

1.Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Once you’ve bought your stock of candy to give out on Halloween night, don’t keep it out in the open or in an easily accessible location. Each of us probably knows all too well how easy it is to pop open one of those bags for “just a few” pieces of candy and have that turn into needing to go buy more candy. It’s not you and it’s not all just a lack of willpower. Our bodies are programmed to crave those caloric, sugary, fatty foods, especially this time of the year and junk food companies known exactly how to capitalize on that from the ingredients they use all the way down to the packaging.

Take those bags of candy and store them somewhere out of the way and out of your sight until Halloween night (make sure you remember where you put them, of course). It has been proven that when junk food is within our vision or easily accessible to us, we will choose that over healthy options most of the time (even if we don’t really want to). Putting those bags of candy away will help keep you on track and eliminate that extra temptation.

2. Participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project

If candy is your arch nemesis and you would prefer to just not have it in the house at all, then grab a teal pumpkin and hand out non-candy items (like glow sticks, bookmarks, funky erasers, etc.) on Halloween to help include children with food allergies in the spooky fun. This will keep your stress about overindulging at bay and will also benefit kids with food allergies who just want to trick or treat like their friends. Learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project and register your address online here.  

3. Have some fun and then be done

Life is all about balance and you should absolutely get a chance to enjoy some sweets this Halloween season. The key is setting a stopping point and sticking to it. One of the best parts about Halloween as a kid was always bringing a piece or two of candy with you to school in your lunch box. So I suggest keeping the candy around for just one week after Halloween. Allow yourself and/or your kids, just one or two pieces a day (assuming they’re the “fun size”) and stick to that. Once that week is up, get rid of the candy. You can throw it out (I know, I know) or you can donate it, which is what I recommend because it’s also a great way to teach your kids about helping others and sharing. There are loads of veterans organizations that collect leftover candy to send to troops overseas in their care packages. A simple Google search should point you to one near you.

4. Hand out healthier snacks instead

I know that neighbor tends to get a bad rep, but you could hand out healthier options such as mini boxes of raisins, snack bags of pretzels, or clementines to toss out just a few ideas. Doing this will keep more sugar out of your house and you might actually be doing another parent or child a favor as well.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food.

 

Bonus advice:

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll make you fat can very adversely affect your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame around it. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of: this isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.

 

Have a Healthy Freshman Year

The first year in college is a very exciting time, but it is also an enormous adjustment for many college students. The lack of parental/caregiver oversight, freedom to set your own schedules, competition, stress, and having the ability to choose when and what you eat can often mean that health takes a backseat to other priorities, particularly during that first year of college. I can tell you based on my own personal experience that the dreaded “Freshman 15” is just the tip of the iceberg since eating habits are strongly linked to other factors, such as stress. So here are my tips for keeping healthy when you head out to college.

Eating Healthy

1. Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room

In college, I lived next door to the Mediterranean-themed dining hall, which, for me, meant bringing back tupperware containers full of baklava to snack on when I was studying later on at night during my first semester. That went as well for my waistline as you would think it did. When we are stressed out or up late, we are particularly susceptible to binging on unhealthy foods. Those foods actually increase the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. So it is super important to make sure that these foods are an occasional treat and not a study-time staple. Keeping healthy snacks handy in your dorm room and back pack will help make sure you avoid this too-common pitfall.

2. Plan ahead

At most schools these days, you can check what the dining hall is serving online before you walk over for dinner. This is awesome because it allows you to plan your meals ahead of time and strategize around those temptations.

3. Hit the salad bar

A healthy plate should be at least 1/2 vegetables and hitting the salad bar can make sure you hit this benchmark. Starting your meal with a salad is also a great way to make sure that you don’t overeat more caloric or unhealthier foods later on in your meal. It has also been shown to buffer against the blood sugar spike we experience from simple carbohydrates and could mitigate some of the effects of fatty meats on our circulatory system as well.

4. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is critical for your health in so many ways. Drinking enough water keeps your skin healthy, keeps your joints working properly, helps cleanse out your body, promotes cardiovascular health, helps you absorb nutrients from food, and can keep you from overeating.

5. Be present at meal time

It is so easy to eat a whole meal and hardly even notice it when you’re super distracted my homework, friends, etc. You will enjoy your meals more and feel more satisfied as well as diminish your likelihood of overeating if you pay attention to your eating.

6. Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat

When you’re really cramming or trying to meet a deadline, it can be easy to skip eating until you can’t ignore those hunger pangs any more, but you’re not doing yourself any favors this way. You will work better and more efficiently if you eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re starving. When you wait that long, you often end up opting for something unhealthy or inhaling way too much food. You’re better off having a snack or taking a meal break – chances are you weren’t getting as much done as you could anyway because you were being distracted by hunger and your brain was starving for the nutrients it needs to function properly.

Healthy Movement

1. Find a fitness routine that you actually like

It’s no secret that if you hate something, you won’t do it. Once you have your schedule down, finding some type of physical activity that you like – whether it’s playing a sport or going to the gym or taking a fitness class – is key to keeping physically active, especially when student life is often so sedentary. It’s also important to know yourself and what it takes for you to make something habit. Are you easily self-motivated so setting your own schedule works for you? Do you need external accountability so registering for a class or being part of a team is a must for you to stick to something? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will help you find what works for you.

2. Find a fitness buddy

Having a fitness buddy is a great way to keep yourself motivated and active. It’s also a great way to build a good new friendship.

Feel Healthy

1. Get enough sleep

College students are incredibly sleep-deprived. This can negatively impact academic performance, can increase stress levels, has been linked to higher body weight, can increase inflammation, and can contribute to depression. Practicing good sleep hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep (8 hours) is critical to overall health. Make sure that you have enough time to sleep for 8 hours. Keep electronics and their blue light out of your bedroom. Use sleep masks and ear plugs if you need to – even a little light can disrupt our sleep.

2. Find your stress relief tricks and make time for them

College is stressful. Period. And stress can have some very negative effects on our health, including weight gain, decreased immune system function, sleeplessness, and hypertension. It is so, so important to have healthy ways to manage your stress at your disposal, especially when it can be very easy to turn to unhealthy ways of coping. When I was in college, exercise and coloring were my go-tos when the stress got to be too much. I also had a great group of friends to turn to when I needed them. Try to have a variety of stress relief techniques you can use depending on what your situation is.

3. Use the school’s resources

From one-on-one therapy sessions to support groups to student mentors, there are a number of resources available to college students these days to support your mental and emotional health. If you are struggling – no matter what with – these resources are there for you to use and I guarantee you are not the only one to use them.

 

 

Product Review: Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame Spaghetti

Pasta is a staple for many of us and our families – it’s easy, quick, convenient, and yummy. But white pasta is full of “bad” carbs and empty calories and the whole grain versions are still quite calorie-dense and easy to overeat. Plus, if you’re sensitive to gluten, neither of those are a good option. For these reasons, I’m always looking for new pasta alternatives. One that I am a big fan of is the Ultra-Grain pasta from Hodgson Mills, which is a whole wheat & quinoa blend. I’ve tried rice pastas before and am not really a fan of the texture – they tend to be kind of gummy. I’m also not really a fan of black bean pastas because you can taste the bean flavor and the texture is off to me as well. This week I decided to give Edamame pasta a try.

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Nutrition

Explore Cuisine’s edamame pasta has a lot going for it nutritionally. The first thing that I noted was that it is organic and non-GMO. If you are not familiar with edamame, it is a soy bean and 93% of soy sold in the US is genetically modified. If it is not labeled organic or non-GMO, you can bet that your soy is genetically modified. So that earned this pasta it’s first point from me.

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Explore Cuisine Edamame Spaghetti dry

The second major eye-catcher is that it contains 24 grams of protein per serving. That is huge and, coupled with the 13 grams of fiber per serving, means that this is a very filling pasta that will leave you feeling sated for a long time after. It also makes it hard to overeat it because you start feeling full very quickly.

 

This pasta is also pretty low-calorie at just 180 calories per serving. This means there is wiggle room for the calories added by what you top it with (check out my veggie-loaded pasta sauce recipe here or give a cauliflower alfredo sauce a try). Another perk: this paste is a great source of calcium, iron, and potassium.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking at this point “OK but how big is a serving?”. According to the box, a serving is 2 oz, but it doesn’t indicate whether that is dry or prepared. It does say that there are 4 serving per box, so I would say just take 1/4 of the prepared box. Trust me, it will fill you up.

Ease of Prep

Some non-flour pastas are kind of high-maintenance when it comes to prep; not the case with this spaghetti. Your bring the water to a boil, dump it in, and it’s done in 3-5 minutes. This is faster than many pasta varieties so I really liked that. It’s definitely a quick and easy dinner option.

Taste and Texture

OK but what is it like?! I really, really like this spaghetti. It has just a very light, savory flavor to it so it can work with pretty much any sauce/topping. The texture is very satisfying. It’s definitely different from a flour pasta’s texture, a bit chewier, but in a good way. Especially where it’s a fine spaghetti, the chewy, almost meaty texture is nice and give you that full mouth feel.

I had just one serving and it left me feeling very satisfied and full for the rest of the night. The best part was probably that I didn’t experience that awful bloated feeling that I often get after eating a regular pasta. I just felt well-fed! We prepared it as a sort-of shrimp scampi with olive oil and lemon juice plus shrimp and sautéed onions and peppers. I was worried that doing such a light sauce meant its flavor would be drowned out by the taste of the pasta, but that was not the case at all! It turned out delicious.

Overall:

I would give Explore Cuisine’s Edamame Spaghetti 5 stars.

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Our version of shrimp scampi that we made with the edamame pasta

 

Serrano Honey Shrimp & Avocado Summer Salad

One of my favorite things about summer is the crisp, fresh, and delicious foods we New Englanders are finally surrounded by. This summer salad is a bit of a riff off of ceviche with the exception of the fact that I cooked the shrimp. It combines fresh vegetables, like peppers and onions, with fresh fruits, like avocado and pineapple, with seasoned chili-seasoned shrimp for a refreshing and simple dish. What really added depth and outstanding flavor to this dish was the addition of Serrano Honey Balsamic Vinegar from The Branch Olive Oil Company in Peabody, MA. In addition to the acid of the vinegar, this balsamic brings with it the sweetness of honey and just a little heat from the serrano chiles. It’s the finisher that really makes this dish pop. If you have a cookout coming up and want to bring something that really stands out and is completely different, this is the dish to go with.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole avocado
  • 12-15 shrimp (size 16/20), rinsed and tails removed
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen pineapple, diced
  • 1.25 oz The Branch Serrano Honey Balsamic
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • 1/2 lime
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp EVOO or EV, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. In a skillet, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil over medium-low heat. Sprinkle both sides of the shrimp with chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Place shrimp in the pan and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until firm and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
  2. While the shrimp is cooling, begin prepping the chopped fruits and vegetables for the dish and combine them in a large bowl with the chopped cilantro.
  3. Once the shrimp is cooled, cut it into small pieces and add it to the bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lime juice. Stir to coat everything.
  4. Cover and place the mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

This dish is great to eat on its own or you could serve it in lettuce wraps, with tortilla chips, or over cooled rice or quinoa. I served mine over brown rice with a side of roasted broccoli as shown below.

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If you haven’t been to The Branch yet, I highly recommend you check them out. If you go in person, you can taste pretty much everything in the store and the employees there are super helpful. If you order online, they offer free shipping which is awesome, needless to say.

Product Review: Boozy Seltzers

Ok. You might be thinking “um, a health coach is reviewing alcohol?” Yes, I am, because I think balance is very important when it comes to health and wellness and, if you want to enjoy a drink occasionally, you should. And so, with that, I give you my take on boozy seltzer.

I’m sure you’ve seen them in the package stores by now, thin, classy-looking cans of spiked seltzers advertising how low-calorie and low-carb they are. I also couldn’t resist and tried them out.

Overall, the alcoholic seltzers out there are typically lower in calories and carbohydrates than the average beer or wine. However, there is a good amount of variation amongst the different brands. I tried 3 of the most popular brands and will tell you about each in order of my least favorite to best.

Truly – least favorite

The Truly brand ranks at the bottom of the boozy seltzers. In terms of nutrition information, Truly are similar to the White Claw brand: a 12-oz can (5% ABV) contains Trulyjust 100 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of carbs, so they really are a low-cal, low-carb option. I also really love that they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, which have been link to numerous health problems, the full extent of which we still don’t know.

I’ve only had their citrus flavors and I do like the taste. They’re not super sweet or super tart and don’t taste like fake flavoring. What I don’t like about these, and what put them at the bottom for me, is that they are extremely acidic. I actually couldn’t finish the package I bought because every time I drank one I ended up with such awful heartburn that was really difficult to cure. I don’t really have a sensitive stomach and I’ve eaten my share of horrifying food combinations, so this was surprising to me. Seltzer is an acidic drink to begin with so this one is that much more. If you have a sensitive stomach or sensitive teeth, this is something you want to be aware of.

Spiked Seltzer – Runner Up

The runner up in the seltzer game is Spiked Seltzer. These are a bit heavier than the Spiked Seltzerother 2 brands reviewed here. A 12-oz can (6% ABV) contains 140 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates (sugar info is not listed on their website). This makes it more caloric than a Bud Light (110 cal) and about on par for carbs (6.6 grams). It’s also more caloric than a glass of white wine (120 cal on average) and contains more carbs (4 grams on average). So, really, if you’re looking for a adult beverage with less calories and carbs, this one really isn’t the one you want to go with…at least not if you like Bud Light or white wine more.

In terms of overall yumminess, my favorite flavor is the cranberry. I’ve also had the lemon, lime, and grapefruit. I cared least for the lemon as it tasted kind of fake to me, although there are not any artificial flavors in it. Just not my flavor. All of the flavors are a nice balance between sweet and tart.

White Claw – The Winner!

The White Claw brand is hands-down my favorite. A 12-oz can (5% ABV) contains 100 White Clawcalories and 2 grams of carbohydrates and sugar, making it a nice, light option. Of the three brands, I like the taste of this one the best. The black cherry flavor is my favorite and the lime flavor is a close second. They all taste natural, aren’t super sweet, and don’t have a harsh, acidic bite. Like the other two flavors, White Claw contains no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. This is the brand of boozy seltzer you will find me sitting around the campfire with.

As a health coach, I have to say that, if you want to have a little boozy indulgence, alcohol-spiked seltzers are a good option to go with without tipping the scales. Cheers!

Tips to Help You Eat More Plants

We have a plant problem in the US today and I’m not talking about marijuana. By and large most Americans aren’t eating enough plants in their diets in spite of volumes of studies showing that eating plant-based diets is key for lasting health and weight management because they are loaded with so many vital nutrients our bodies depend on. Part of the issue is that we are a very meat-centric society and many of us just don’t know how to work more vegetables into our cooking routine because we are so used to meals consisting of a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. However, there are many plants that are great sources of protein and can easily stand in for that meat on your plate. Here are some tips to get you started on eating more plants.

Eat something green with every meal

This one is a great rule to live by and will instantly get more plants into your diet. Just add a green vegetable to every meal. This could mean adding spinach to your eggs in the morning, throwing some greens into your sandwich at lunch, and having some kale or green beans with dinner. Having green vegetables with your meals helps fill you up so you can cut down on the less healthy options.

Practice Meatless Mondays

Commit to eating vegetarian one day a week. This one will require some work on your part because it’s very easy to just resort to carbs, like pasta and bread, and you may need to search for some good recipes. But it’s worth it! Some great plant-based protein options are: tofu, tempeh, beans, and quinoa. Which brings me to…..

Eat more quinoa

Quinoa has become a wellness buzz food and for good reason. This little seed is a complete protein and is a good source of calcium, lysine, B vitamins, and iron. It’s also gluten free. Prepared like you would rice, quinoa can be flavored pretty much any way and is versatile for use in meals. I’ve used it like rice, made pizza crust with it, made meatless meatballs with it – lots of things!

Make friends with cauliflower

Cauliflower is another versatile plant food that can be used for a large number of things. For example, you can make pizza crust with it, puree it to make an alfredo sauce, or use it as a substitute for rice. These recipes are super easy and are a great way to eat more veggies!

Give vegetable noodles a try

Don’t have a spiralizer? That’s OK! Most grocery stores now carry a variety of vegetable noodles, from squash to zucchini to sweet potato to beets. And the internet is loaded with different recipes for every type of vegetable noodle. You could use spaghetti squash instead of regular noodles as well. For a store-bought option, check out my review of these edamame noodles.

Load your pasta sauce

Marinara and pasta sauces are a great place to hide vegetables, especially if you have picky eaters. You can load your sauces with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, squash – you name it. Keep it chunky or puree it for a smoother sauce. Either way, you just ate way more vegetables!

Drink more smoothies

Smoothies can be another good way to increase the amount of plants you’re consuming on a daily basis. Using fresh or frozen fruit and adding some vegetables like spinach, kale, or cucumber, you can make a powerhouse of a smoothie. Just be careful not to overload your smoothie so you end up with a high calorie treat rather than a healthy snack or meal.

Replace those chips and crackers

There are many healthy plant options you can choose for snacks on the go other than chips and crackers. Nuts, for example, are a great source of protein and fiber. Crunchy chickpeas are also a yummy plant snack on the go and can be bought or made in a variety of different flavors. Carrots, celery, and sugar snap peas are also taken on the go very easily and are great for dipping.

Treat yourself to the cut fruit plate

Many of us balk at the pre-cut fruit platters they sell at the grocery store because they really charge you for the convenience. But, in my opinion, it’s a worthwhile investment if it will make it easier for you to eat healthier.

Replace your bread with greens

Replace your wraps with collard leaves and your tortillas with lettuce cups. You could also use slices of sweet potato or cucumber instead of bread for your sandwiches.

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It may seem like a lot of work at first, but it is actually quite easy to get more plants into your daily diet. Once you find some recipes you like and work them into your routine with some minimal prep, you’ll be eating plants like you’ve been doing it all along.