Category Archives: Health & Wellness

five things.

summerimage via.

Happy Friday, friends! A quick shout-out to all my fellow Minnesotans who are rejoicing about the fact that we reached the mid-60s today for the first time, not to mention the prediction of temps in the low 70s later this weekend. Hallelujah, huh?! I even opened a few windows in the house today. Ahh-mazing.

Aside from sweet sunshine-filled days like today, here are five things I’m looking forward to most this season, in no particular order: 1. the farmers market // 2. garage sales // 3. iced coffee // 4. gardening // 5. fresh flowers. All such simple, yet gratifying distinguishers of spring + summer. Oh, and if I had a bike like the one above, I’d really be set.

What about you – what are the things you’re most looking forward to this season?

Enjoy the weekend!

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why i’m breaking up with Clif.

If you got around to reading my “healthy living: knowledge is power” post from last week, then you know I am fully immersed in the search for what being healthy really means, which goes beyond just ‘eating right’ and exercising in today’s world. As I dig deeper, I discover more and more about the tricky tactics being used in America’s food industry among everything from disguising harmful ingredients to false advertising on packaging — ultimately making it a painstaking challenge to eat truly healthy. Sad, huh? And although I am well aware of the industry’s sly ways (and have been for a while), even I was recently duped. Here’s how it went down…

hungry-for-change

Lately I’ve been on a documentary kick (they’re surprisingly addicting), and my latest sit-down was with ‘Hungry for Change.’ There is a brief portion of the film that emphasizes the addictive properties of MSG and free glutamates (now used in about 80% of all processed foods for that reason) and their ability to make us fat over time. I immediately thought, “Whew, good thing I don’t have to worry about that since I steer clear of those kind of junky, overly-processed foods.” However, the film revealed shortly thereafter that those particular ingredients often go unnoticed on food labels because they are disguised with different names such as hydrolyzed soy protein, free glutamic acid, sodium caseinate, citrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, monoammonian glutamate, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, and autolyzed yeast extract. (Does any of that sound even remotely natural to you?!)

As the names rolled across the screen, one all-too familiar ingredient immediately caught my eye: soy protein isolate, also known as the second ingredient in the Clif bars that I’ve consumed on a regular basis for years. I quickly looked up ‘soy protein isolate’ online, only to find that it’s a highly refined form of soy protein made from soybean meal that has been dehulled and defatted. (And let’s not forget to mention that soybeans are one of the most genetically modified foods in our country). I felt cheated, but mostly foolish for not realizing this sooner. The part of Clif’s packaging that says, “contains 70% organic ingredients” had me coerced into thinking it was a healthy bar (minus the rather high sugar content, of course) and for that reason reached for them as pre-workout fuel and quick breakfasts on the regular.

clif bars

I then figured that I might as well take a look at the ingredients on my Luna bars since they’re a Clif-owned product. Of course I found the same exact thing: soy protein isolate (but listed as the first ingredient instead of the second!). Since I was on a roll, I grabbed for my chocolate whey protein powder that I frequently buy at Whole Foods. What do you know – whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed whey protein isolate, ion-exchanged whey protein isolate – all right before my eyes.

Now that I’ve been enlightened with this information, I’ve decided that these products no longer have any business with me, that’s for sure. (You hear that Clif? We’re done. Over. I’m leaving your processed protein ass for KIND and LÄRABAR. Sayonara, sucker!)

But let’s take a step back for a minute. Although I realize I am sounding rather harsh, let it be known that I am not saying Clif is a “bad company” and one to completely avoid by any means (they do use 70% organic ingredients in many of their bars after all, and they even make a few 100% organic bars such as ‘Clif Kid Zbar’ and ‘Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit + Nut bar.’ They also strive to help the environment which is great), but what I’m really trying to get at here is this: KNOW what you are putting into your body – don’t let things like “contains organic ingredients” fool you like I did, or think that just because you bought it from a co-op or health foods store that you’re automatically in the clear. If you aren’t sure what an ingredient is or if it sounds fishy, look it up or better yet – simply pass on that item. All in all, the more clean, whole and organic foods you are eating (mostly ones that don’t require an ingredients list at all) – the healthier you will be and the less scrutinizing of ingredients you will have to do — win, win!

Are (or were) you a Clif bar fan?

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healthy living: knowledge is power.

organic food

Allow me to stand on my soapbox today! As my eagerness for learning more about eco-friendly and healthy living over the years has grown (and only continues to do so), I’m constantly trying to absorb as much information as I can in order to expand my knowledge on the subject. The variety of resources I came across this past week spotlighting America’s food industry proved to be a wealth of information and nothing short of powerful, eye-opening and definitely share-worthy! Okay, before you click away, hear me out here — even if you’re not necessarily crazed about the idea of “healthy living” or giving up your fast food Fridays, the resources I’m sharing contain basic information the general public should know about (and can only benefit from), regardless of your concern for the topic. Keep in mind that knowledge is power and ignorance is bliss so don’t be in the dark — educate yourself! The more you know about healthy living, the larger impact you can have in bettering your lifestyle and those you care about.

Take the time to check out the following links and you may very well feel baffled from what you’ll learn, but also enlightened and empowered.

anna lappe

Short video: How the food industry influences you and your kids // a 15-min. clip featuring a revealing speech by author and activist Anna Lappe in regards to the food industry’s marketing tactics/ploys specifically geared toward children. From snack packaging to school supplies, the ways in which companies such as Coca-Cola are targeting children and deceiving them into consuming (and getting hooked on) their product is just down right disturbing. For anyone who has a child in their life that they care about, this clip is well-worth your time!

forks over knives

Documentary: Forks Over Knives // a thought-provoking documentary on the negatively profound effects of the average American diet. The video exclusively examines the claim that most, if not all, degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled and even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. Clean eating as the answer to cancer prevention and obesity? Yes, that’s exactly right! It’s so simple, yet comes as such a complex concept for people to comprehend. This is hands-down the best documentary I’ve watched and has had the most lasting influence on me. In my opinion, it even trumps Food Inc., Vegucated, and Food Matters, which is not to say those aren’t excellent documentaries because they are also worth checking out!

birke

Public figure: Birke Baehr // It’s people like Birke, a 14-year-old organic food crusader, who show promise for our future generations. This early activists’ self-taught knowledge of how today’s food industry is so wrongly effecting Americans has led him to boycott fast food chains and GMO-laden food in favor of eating and promoting local + organically grown. If one kid can say no to McDonald’s and soda laced with loads of high fructose corn syrup, then surely there is hope for the rest of America! Watch just one of Birke’s speeches and you will be instantly captivated and inspired.

gmo

Coming soon: GMO OMG // this documentary (currently underway) highlights the corporate ‘hijacking’ of our global food system through GMOs – genetically modified organisms. As our government is being bought out by giant food corps, how can we really know what is safe to consume anymore? Is it even possible to get back to the days of “real” food where we don’t have to scrutinize ingredients? For anyone who has been outraged by the recent Monsanto Protection Act signed by President Obama, definitely add this to your must-watch list!

The ‘Food Babe’ blog is also an excellent source of information that I recently wrote about here.

If you made it through this whole post, I applaud you! I would truly love to receive your personal feedback on what I’ve shared today. (I’d love even more if you’d share this post with others!) Have a wonderful and healthy week! :-)

jeanette

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homemade organic vanilla syrup.

Happy Monday, friends!

I’ve got just the thing to make your week a little sweeter: a recipe for organic vanilla bean coffee syrup! Not only is this syrup ridiculously good and easy to make, it’s also much more cost-effective than buying the pre-made stuff from the store, which typically has artificial flavoring and preservatives — no thank you!

organic vanilla syrup recipe

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 organic vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tsp. organic vanilla extract
  • a container for storing (ours was $3.99 from Home Goods)

organic vanilla syrup ingredients

Directions:
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and throw in the pod as well. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the vanilla bean pod and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool. Store in the refrigerator.

Have a great week!

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ooh la latte! DIY style.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I’m a big fan of fancy coffee drinks but not the price tag – something I think most people can relate to. Throughout the years I’ve managed to come up with a few ways to whittle down the cost of my routine coffee shop visits (reference here or here) but all that has recently become a distant memory of the past. Enter Bialetti espresso maker and Aroma milk frother (or better known as  two of the best wedding gifts ever)! Forget going to Starbucks and lose the idea of shelling out hundreds of dollars for one of those high-end espresso makers! When combined, these two products are truly all a person needs to have delicious coffee drinks made right at home! (Am I starting to sound like an infomercial yet?) Yeah, okay… enough.

Ranting aside, my typical morning since getting this perfect pair has been occupied by creating delicious, homemade coffee concoctions like cappuccinos, lattes and cafe con leches. Mmm :)

The moral of the story here is that if you (or someone you know) is an espresso enthusiast, this is an excellent gift idea! (You could even consider adding a personal touch by including some various specialty coffee drink and/or syrup recipes). But gift or no gift, investing in these two products won’t break the bank and will [ideally] prevent those frequent stops at the coffee shop you later end up feeling guilty about.

Do you have any secrets for making fancy at-home coffee drinks? Are these items you’d consider buying?

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feelin’ juicy.

Although I pride myself on being a frugalista and cringe at the thought of paying more than $5 for a shirt, I didn’t hesitate to shell out just over $100 for a juicer recently. Why, you ask? Subsequent to reading about the benefits of juicing and its natural healing properties, I couldn’t resist. (Also keep in mind that you can’t put a price tag on excellent health!) So without further ado, I wanted to pass along a little information about juicing and why you, too, should consider investing in a juicer!

When you extract the juice of a fruit or vegetable, the result is a high concentration of minerals, antioxidants, vitamins and enzymes. Put simply, juicing is a great way to get your daily dose of fruits and veggies.

Now let’s get to the best part – the benefits of juicing!

  • improves the digestive system
  • assists in weight loss
  • detoxifies the liver
  • helps the immune system stay at its peak
  • flushes toxins from the body
  • increases the concentration of cancer-fighting phytochemicals in the body
  • revs your energy level
  • best of all – it’s 100% natural! (plus gluten-free, raw and vegan!)

One of my favorite juice combos – carrot, apple & ginger (and sometimes I like to throw a beet in there for good measure!)

When juicing, it’s important to…

  • Use organic produce whenever possible (you don’t want to be consuming pesticides).
  • Wash the produce. Even if it’s organic, it is still important to wash your produce before consuming it to get rid of any dirt residue or bacteria from other people handling it.
  • Drink immediately after making for the most optimal nutritional benefits (the antioxidants and other phytonutrients start to break down almost immediately once they are exposed to light and air).
  • Compost the leftover pulp, or use it in various recipes, so that nothing goes to waste!

All in all, juicing is an easy way to provide yourself with a high level of quality nutrition resulting in a wide array of health perks.

So I’d love to know – what are your thoughts on juicing? Would you consider buying a juicer?

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high-protein vegan stirfry.

People always think that vegetarians and vegans don’t get enough protein in their diet.  I beg to differ. With a whopping 30 grams of protein, this is just one of many healthy veg recipes that defies that assumption! (Bonus – it’s quick, easy & extremely tasty!) Keep reading for the recipe…

Serves 1-2

Ingredients:
– 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 cup shelled edamame
– 4.5 oz. of extra firm tofu (approx. 1/3 block)
– 2 oz. rice noodles
– 1 Tbs. minced garlic
– Teriyaki sauce to taste
*Optional add-ins: slivered carrots, sliced peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, pineapple, toasted sesame seeds, grated ginger

Directions:
1. Cut tofu into cubes
2. Heat olive oil in a saute pan and add in tofu, flipping cubes onto a new side approximately every five minutes until all sides are golden brown
3. While tofu is cooking, cook edamame and rice noodles according to package instructions
4. Once everything is fully cooked, mix all ingredients together and drizzle with teriyaki sauce to taste

Pair it with a glass of freshly made carrot ginger juice to complete this exceptionally healthy meal! :)

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shop farmer’s market fresh

Spring is well under way and summer is just around the corner… do you know what that means? It’s time for the farmer’s market! The farmer’s market isn’t just for getting awesomely fresh produce, but it’s also a great way to be sustainable by supporting your local farmers!

So when it comes to shopping fresh summer produce, here is your quick guide for the best in-season fruits, veggies and herbs! –

Fruits: Apricots, Avocados, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Figs, Grapes, Kiwi, Mangos, Melon (Cantaloupe, Honeydew, Watermelon), Nectarines, Papaya, Peaches, Pineapple, Plums, Raspberries, Strawberries

Vegetables: Beets, Cabbage, Carrots, Celery, Chard, Corn, Cucumbers, Green beans, Eggplant, Jicama, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Okra, Onions, Potatoes, Radishes, Rhubarb, Spinach, Summer Squash, Sweet Peppers, Tomatoes, Zucchini

Herbs: Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary

What are some of your favorite items to buy at the farmers market, or recipes you like to make with fresh summer produce?

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cha cha chia!

My new health food obsession – chia seeds! (Yes, the ingredient to make chia pets). That aside, this little seed has been around for centuries, recognized as being a staple in the ancient Aztec and Mayan diets. Although tiny, this little seed packs a powerful punch. Check out why it gets superfood status:

The benefits…

  • High in: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C and antioxidants
  • Reduces cravings
  • Assists in successful weight loss
  • Stabilizes blood sugar
  • Promotes lean muscle maintenance
  • Plus more!

Chia seeds have a mild nutty flavor and tend to absorb the flavors of whatever they are mixed with. Bonus! – Unlike flax seeds, chia seeds don’t have to be ground up before you eat them to receive the most optimal nutrition.

Add them to…

  • Yogurt
  • Cereal
  • Salad
  • Smoothies
  • Oatmeal
  • Baked goods

All in all, chia seeds are a great way to sneak extra nutrition into your daily diet. Get ‘em at your local co-op or Whole Foods Market!

What are some of your favorite health foods?!

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vegan protein shake.

I am currently on a shake/smoothie kick and let me tell you, I’ve concocted one that can’t be beat! This particular protein shake is great for a quick breakfast to fuel your morning, or awesome as a post-workout meal.

Don’t let the spinach or flaxseed scare you away – this filling, nutrient-dense shake is comparable to a dessert (and no I’m not just saying that). I mean, how can you go wrong with a chocolate, peanut butter and banana combo?!

Tasty as it is healthy, this is a recipe you won’t want to pass up!

Makes approximately one 16-oz serving.

Ingredients:

– 1 frozen banana
– 1 cup almond milk (I like unsweetened vanilla) or other non-dairy milk
– 1/2 cup quick oats
– 1 scoop chocolate protein powder of choice
– 2 Tbs. chunky peanut butter OR almond butter
– 1 cup spinach
– 1 tbs. ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil (chia or hemp seed are also great options)
– handful of ice
– pinch of cinnamon
– 1 packet Starbucks VIA instant coffee (optional)

Directions:

Blend all ingredients thoroughly in blender and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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