Homemade Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

I’m officially on day 2 of my new life of “funemployment,” and the first recipe I’m going to share is nothing short of a celebration. That’s right folks, it’s chocolate time. You may have noticed an increase in references to #sibo on the old IG account lately, but in case you haven’t, I’ve had a recent, unfortunate diagnosis of SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), which has rendered my food choices quite limited as of late. (I could use this space to rant about the medical insurance racket and how insanely long it’s taking me to get the antibiotic I need, but I’ll spare you the details.) One of the interesting things about the SIBO diet is that you can have raw honey and certain fruits, but no other sugar whatsoever. I’ll get more into SIBO in a separate post, but I just couldn’t wait to share this recipe.

Because I am absolutely addicted to chocolate, and because most store-bought chocolates are not sweetened with honey, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Join me for the next few minutes on my chocolate making adventure, and then venture out on your own chocolate epic and let me know how it goes!

I’ve tried a few different things so far, but the one I’m most excited to share is the Almond Butter Cups. LIke most things on CWB, this is simply a chocolate roadmap with one example of how it could end. You have the power to make your chocolate dreams come true — I’m just here to help. 🙂 

chocolate almond butter cups

Recipe Lab: Refrigerator Chocolate

You might recall that I experimented with some freezer chocolate back at Christmastime. (Side note, I just realized this was TWO Christmases ago — 2016 was the fastest year of my life, by FAR. Anyone else feel me on this?) Anyway, in the spirit of homemade holiday gifts and attempting to include some healthy sweets in our holiday celebrations, I made Paleo-ish Peppermint Bark. The main ingredients were coconut oil, raw cacao powder, and maple syrup. It turned out great, but it absolutely HAD to stay in the freezer or it would become a big melty mess. And since I can’t include my favorite sweetener for the time being (maple syrup), I’m moving forward from here with raw honey. 

To avoid the melty mess this time, I decided to experiment with raw cacao butter to achieve a more stable finished product. And guess what … it was the right choice. I have successfully upgraded my chocolate-making skills from freezer chocolate to refrigerator chocolate!

Is this chocolate raw?

The ingredients in my refrigerator chocolate are raw, but I did melt everything on the stove. I read a bit about raw chocolate and learned that the hottest temps allowable for raw chocolate to remain raw are between 118 and 120F. I didn’t use a double boiler or check the temperature, but I’d imagine that if you did those things and kept the temps in range, you could make exactly what I made and be able to call it raw chocolate.

The Chocolate Journey

Since my main chocolate-making experience was in making the peppermint bark for the holidays, I decided to stick to that in round one of my chocolatey adventure. More bark. But instead of going for the peppermint variety, I kept it simple, sprinkling raw cacao nibs and pumpkin seeds on top and calling it a day. It turned out pretty great actually.

homemade chocolate barkRound 2: Almond Butter Cups

In round 2, I decided to get more creative. I’d bought a few silicone molds a while back, and most of them had just been collecting dust in my cabinet. The only ones I’d used were these adorable little hearts when I experimented with homemade lotion bars (I think it was also that crafty Christmas back in 2015). So I pulled out the mold that looked like peanut butter cups and went to work on my version of almond butter cups. This was a delicious decision and turned out to be the inspiration for today’s post.

chocolate almond butter cups

The Almond Butter Cup Filling

The filling consists of equal parts raw almond butter to raw honey, stirred aggressively with a fork. Very simple and delicious. In my first attempt at almond butter cups, I used about a dime-sized ball of filling, which made for a high chocolate-to-filling ratio. They were delicious, but I knew I wanted more almond butter in every bite. I went to work again, this time using these really cute flower molds that were much deeper (so they could fit more filling). 

chocolate almond butter cups

chocolate almond butter cups

I love how these turned out, but as you might see from the pictures, some of the filling snuck out of the sides, so they aren’t quite perfect to look at. Considering that they taste amazing, and that I’m a novice at this whole chocolate-making endeavor, I’m still giving myself an A for effort and believe that I’ve earned bragging rights as a wannabe chocolatier. (I’m sure real chocolatiers are rolling their eyes at this simpleton, but I do what I want.)

What will I come up with next?

Also featured in one of these pictures are my first attempts at a “peppermint patty.” I didn’t love how they turned out, so I’m going to go back to the drawing board before I share that recipe with you. I already have an idea of how I’ll improve these for the next round. I’m also going to try my hand at an “Almond Joy”-style bite-size morsel. So stay tuned for both of those. And if you decide that you want to beat me to the punch in figuring those two out, please be my guest and let me know about it! I’d be happy to share your version with everyone!

Chocolate Almond Butter Cups (Sweetened with Honey)
Chocolate prepared with all raw ingredients, sweetened with raw honey for those with food restrictions (especially those related to SIBO)
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  2. 1/4 cup raw cacao butter (or 5 cubes of the Big Tree Farms brand)
  3. 3/4 cup raw raw cacao powder
  4. 2 tbs raw honey
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. pinch of salt
  7. OPTIONAL: raw maca powder
  8. OPTIONAL: raw cacao nibs and coarse sea salt for topping
  9. FOR THE FILLING: If using shallow, buttercup-like molds, 2 tbs raw honey + 2 tbs raw almond butter. If using deeper molds, 3 tbs raw honey + 3 tbs raw almond butter (I used creamy)
Instructions
  1. in a small saucepan, melt the raw cacao butter on very low heat (optional to use a double boiler to avoid scorching)
  2. once it starts to become liquid, add in the coconut butter
  3. turn off the fire when both oils are fully liquified
  4. whisk in raw cacao powder, raw honey, vanilla, salt, and maca until the chocolate liquid is completely uniform
  5. place your mold onto a rigid surface (like a cutting board or cookie sheet) for easy transport
  6. pour a thin layer of chocolate into the bottom of each mold
  7. freeze for 10 minutes
  8. immediately thoroughly mix the honey and almond butter in a small mixing bowl and freeze for the remaining few minutes until it's time to take out the chocolate
  9. remove the molds and filling from the freezer
  10. using a small spoon and clean fingers, form a ball of filling to place inside each mold (for shallower molds, you want a dime-size ball. For the deeper molds, about a silver dollar-size ball.)
  11. once you've distributed the filling, give the remaining chocolate a good stir with the whisk before spooning out the rest of it to fill the molds
  12. If your filling is visible, use a spoon to gently press it down and hide it under the chocolate
  13. (Optional to sprinkle the nib and sea salt toppings at this time)
  14. freeze for another 20 minutes (or overnight)
  15. pop your chocolates out of their molds and store in a non-porous covered container in the refrigerator
Notes
  1. You can use this same chocolate recipe without the filling to make chocolate bark, chocolate bars, or even dipping chocolate.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Sweet Potato Leek Soup [RECIPE]

I have no idea what came over me when I made the decision to make soup on what was likely the hottest day so far in 2017 (last week). But for some reason, I felt inspired to invent a new version of potato leek soup using the sweet potatoes sitting on my counter. I knew I needed to use them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to turn on the oven in my un-air conditioned kitchen. And since I’d just pulled three beautiful leeks from the front yard garden, the idea came to me in a stroke of genius. Loren came home and informed me that soup on a hot day was less genius than I’d originally thought, but I was pretty much finished making it, so we went with it!

Sweet potato leek soup, paleo soup

Sweet Potato Leek Soup Recipe

This recipe was an experiment, and while there’s one thing* I’d do differently the next time I make it (I explain it in the recipe), I’d say it turned out pretty darn delicious. Loren and I brought our soup outside that night to eat at our back yard dining table —  it was much cooler out there than inside our little sweat box of a house, so all in all it was a beautiful evening. We enjoyed the dusk and some candle light, and Dexter hung out on the gravel until we were ready to go back in. That’s success in my book!

*What’s the one thing I’d do differently? The next time I make this soup, I’m going to pull out half the sweet potato chunks from the pot before fully purĂ©eing the rest into a thick, creamy base. Then I’ll add the pieces back in for texture. What I did this time was just do a half-way blend, leaving some larger and smaller chunks, but not achieving a thick base. It was perfectly fine to eat the way I did it, but I think it would be a prettier soup to do it the other way the next time. And the texture would be better.

I did the blending with an immersion blender like this. It’s a great tool to have on hand, but if you don’t have one, just use a blender. It makes for a little more  clean up but works just as well. 

Sweet Potato and Leek Soup
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Ingredients
  1. 2 medium sweet potatoes, cleaned, peeled, and cubed
  2. 3 leeks
  3. 3 sprigs fresh rosemary (discard stems and mince leaves as desired)
  4. 6 cups chicken broth/bone broth/vegetable stock
  5. 3 tbs avocado oil
  6. 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  7. 1 tsp salt
  8. OPTIONAL: 1/2 to 1 cup coconut milk
Instructions
  1. Make sure you've cleaned the leeks really well (dirt can hide between the leaves) before separating the green part from the white part
  2. Chop both the white part and the green part into 1/4 inch pieces, keeping them separate for different parts of the process
  3. Melt 2 tbs avocado oil in a medium stock pot and add in white part of leeks
  4. Saute until translucent (about 5 minutes)
  5. Add in the cubed sweet potatoes and rosemary, and cook for another 5-7 minutes
  6. Add in the broth/stock, vinegar, and salt, and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes
  7. Once the sweet potatoes are soft, turn the stove down to low, use a slotted spoon to remove about half from the pot and set aside
  8. Use an immersion blender to blend the contents of the stock pot until smooth and uniform
  9. (At this point, turn off the fire and taste to see if you'd like to add in your coconut milk. If so, stir it in)
  10. Stir the sweet potato cubes back into the mix and cover the pot
  11. In a separate sauce pan, heat the last tbs of avocado oil on medium heat
  12. Toss in the chopped leek greens and saute until softened
  13. Add these to the top of the salad or use as the base of a stir fry (see notes for more details)
  14. Serve soup piping hot
Notes
  1. I love the green parts of leeks and always think it's a shame to see recipes that direct you to discard the greens. They're actually really delicious and contain most of the nutrients you find in leeks, so I encourage you to use them either as a topping for your soup, or as a stir fry ingredient (as pictured here). Simply warm up some ghee or your favorite cooking oil and saute them in a frying pan before adding in a protein, or just on their own. They're also wonderful in the oven -- I just spread the entire chopped leek (both white and green parts) on a cookie sheet, drizzle with oil and a touch of salt, and roast them as I would any other veggie. They're pictured here sauteed with kale and shrimp.
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

How to Eat More Veggies: Green Smoothies

how to eat more veggies

We could all use a few tips from time to time on how to eat more veggies every day. Conventional wisdom tells us that we need to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, but I’d like to shake it up a tiny bit. I think we should tweak this advice to emphasize the veggies more than the fruit. I’d rather say “eat your veggies and fruit” and recommend aiming for minimum of 4 servings of colorful veggies every day and 1-2 servings of fruit. And going over this minimum is absolutely awesome if you can swing it. 

Much like everything in the health world, there’s conflicting advice on this topic — just to illustrate my point, here are two articles published back to back from the same publication that completely conflict:

Interestingly, the first one is posted in the science section while the second is posted in the health section. I’m not really sure what to make of that, but I thought it was an interesting sidebar to include in our discussion.

What’s undisputed though, is that swapping out fried, starchy, processed foods for nutrient-dense, plant-based foods is an immense win for your health. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. 

Eat More Veggies

A detail that isn’t emphasized enough (in my not-so-humble opinion) is that variety is a critical component of a healthy diet. And I don’t mean a variety of fast-food chains.

Whether we learned it in health class, from a nutritionist, from a fad diet, or on an infomercial, we’ve all been trained to strive for that iconic image of “the healthy meal.” You know what I’m talking about: a poached chicken breast, a pile of steamed broccoli, and a nice rice pilaf on the side. Swap out the chicken breast for a piece of salmon, and now it’s “heart healthy.” I’m here to tell you that if you aspire to enjoy that boring plate of food day after day, you will never, ever stick to a healthy diet OR get adequate nutrition from the food you’re eating.

It’s BORING. It’s totally unrealistic. It’s BLAND. But most importantly, its INADEQUATE. 

eat more veggies

Veggie Variety

If you eat steamed broccoli every single night, you’re getting plenty of vitamins K and C, a good dose of vitamin A, and a modest array of minerals. As healthy as broccoli is, no single plant can provide everything you need, nor can a single source of meat or a single type of starch. I know I’m being extreme to think that someone would want to eat the same thing every single day, but stop and think for a second about your grocery shopping list every week (or your restaurant habits). Do you find that you’re buying/ordering the same few things over and over? Making the same few dishes over and over? Packing the same few lunches? 

To put veggie variety into perspective, some health experts recommend eating at least 20 different types of veggies and fruits every week! Raise your hand if you’re already doing this …

I’m typing so I can’t use my hands (that’s my excuse!)

To bolster the “more variety is better” claim, here’s one more post from The Guardian supporting the 10-servings-a-day idea. I really like that one, so give it a quick look after you’re done reading here.

Veggies over Fruit

In my experience with coaching clients and talking with friends and family, most people find it much more challenging to up the veggie count than the fruit count. Nearly every person I’ve worked with, when given the choice, has opted to eat more fruit rather than more veggies.

Personally, I prefer veggies to fruit, but I must admit that even I have trouble hitting my veggie goals from time to time, so I hope that this info is helpful even to the veggiest of veggie eaters. 

When I ask clients why they prefer to start with fruit rather than veggies, I get similar answers over and over. Here are a few examples:

  • I don’t have time to cook veggies, and I can just grab a piece of fruit whenever I want
  • I don’t like to cook, so fruit is easier to start with because there’s no prep
  • I don’t like raw vegetables, and I hate cooking
  • When I cook veggies, I never like the way they taste
  • I don’t cook, and the restaurants I go to don’t serve a lot of veggies
  • When I buy veggies, they just go bad because I never eat them in time

Do you see a theme here? Do any of these statements resonate with you? If I had to summarize my findings in just a few words, I’d say most people don’t know how to make delicious veggies quicklySo the problem is two-fold:

  1. a lack of time 
  2. a lack of skill 

Another issue I’ve noticed when looking at client food logs is that most folks don’t think about veggies until dinner time. They’ll have eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, and then a sad iceberg lettuce salad for with whatever they’re having for dinner (if they even do that!). Starting the day with veggies is a small change that can yield big results, so that’s what we’ll focus on today.

Next week, I’m going to dive into some simple kitchen hacks for making veggies delicious quickly at home, and also give you a few pointers for making sure you get enough veggies when you’re out to dinner too. Here’s a hint from a previous post, in case you’re the type that likes to skip ahead. For now, it’s smoothie time. 

eat more veggies green smoothie

Building Skills to Eat More Veggies: Green Smoothies

Sometimes, even for adults, the easiest way to ensure that we’re eating enough veggies is to hide them, and hiding them in a smoothie is a great way to start. Granted, I’m talking about green smoothies, which really doesn’t visually hide anything, but cramming some veggies into a blender first thing in the morning can kick-start your day like you wouldn’t believe — and if you do it right, it can be delicious too. 

And by the way, a healthy smoothie doesn’t have to be green. We’ve talked about eating the rainbow here at CWB quite a bit, so you know that consuming a variety of veggies and fruits is the best way to ensure that you’re getting a diverse set of micronutrients in your daily diet. Veggies of all colors, shapes, and sizes can be included in a delicious healthy smoothie. Getting creative is part of the fun! I’m just using the term “green smoothie” to differentiate these smoothies from the fruity sugar bombs they serve at certain chain smoothie establishments that shall remain nameless.

Veggies for Beginners:

If you’re new to blended veggies, I wouldn’t recommend throwing a head of broccoli into your blender. Start with mild greens that don’t alter the flavor of your smoothie too much. eat more veggies green smoothieIn my experience of making smoothies for diverse audiences, I’ve found that beginners enjoy:

  • baby spinach
  • mixed greens/spring mix
  • baby super greens (usually a mix of baby kale, chard, and spinach)
  • romaine lettuce (comes in red/purple and green. Try them both!)
  • other non-iceberg varieties of mild lettuce
  • cucumber
  • canned plain pumpkin

Advanced Veggie Smoothies:

More experienced smoothie drinkers who’ve acclimated their palates to drinking something less sweet and more “earthy” can venture down the veggie path a bit further:

  • spinach (adult greens are often a bit stronger and more fibrous than baby kale, which is why all the baby greens are in the beginner section) 
  • kale (use the leaves and take the ribs out unless you have a really great blender)
  • collard greens (same advice on ribs)
  • beets (steamed — raw are very hard to blend. You can find them pre-steamed in most produce sections these days)
  • cabbage (red/purple is sweeter than green)
  • bell peppers (red/orange/yellow are sweeter than green)
  • summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash)
  • broccoli 

Choosing Fruit for Your Green Smoothie

Don’t get me wrong when I ask you to de-emphasize fruits in favor of veggies. There’s a lot to be gained from adding fruit into your diet, especially if you’re not eating much produce to begin with. I’d go as far as to say that most Americans likely don’t eat enough fruit. But eating fruit ad lib can introduce an unexpected amount of sugar into your life, which we want to avoid. 

You might be surprised at how much sugar you’re consuming if you’re filling a blender with fruit exclusively. Granted, it’s not as much of a health hazard as drinking fruit juice regularly, but it’s certainly not ideal to have that much sugar all at once.

Brightly colored fruits rich in phytonutrients and high in fiber are really the way to go when you’re concocting a blended meal. This way, you get the most bang for your buck in terms of fiber and micronutrient count per gulp. Everything listed below can be fresh or frozen. 

Here are my favorites:

  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries (without a really great blender like this one, raspberries and blackberries can leave seeds in your drink, so if you’re not into that, get a better blender!)
  • grapefruit (same deal with the blender)
  • cherries
  • stone fruit 
  • pomegranate seeds
  • acai berry

Tropical Fruits are great too, but you want to use them in smaller quantities because of the high sugar content. This includes banana (use 1/3 to 1/2 at a time, especially if you’re using other fruits with it), mango, pineapple, and papaya.

I also use pears from time to time, but find that they’re kind of boring (just my opinion).  

Note on organic produce: Using organic for certain veggies and fruit is super important. Some plants absorb pesticides and toxins at greater concentrations than others, so if you want to save by skipping organic, be an informed consumer. Find out which produce items in your cart should always be organic by consulting the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists.

Green Smoothie Guidelines 

Fruits and veggies aren’t the only ingredients that comprise a delicious green smoothie. There’s the liquid you choose, deciding whether or not you want to add in healthy fats, proteins, additional fiber, or superfood supplements like green powders, maca, cacao, or any number of others. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but for anyone to stick with it (including me!), it does have to be delicious. Lucky for you, I have a free eBook of smoothie recipes to get you started, and I have a few other ideas cooking (or blending, as it were), which I’m hoping to unveil in the next month or so. For now, here’s the eBook to get you going:

 

Paleo Tropical Coconut Chicken – Bringing Home Aloha

paleo tropical coconut chicken

It’s been about two weeks since I returned home from 10 days in Hawaii, and I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to completely avoid the usual “post-vacation blues” that I sometimes get after a long break. This trip was absolute perfection, and I’ve brought the aloha back with me in the form of a renewed (although never completely abandoned) coconut obsession. I’ll share a super quick and easy Tropical Coconut Chicken recipe today that features shredded coconut that I brought home with me from Oahu. And stay tuned for more coconut-themed awesomeness inspired by the trip in the next few posts!

Quick Coconut Story

Loren and I did not randomly select Oahu as a destination.paleo tropical coconut chicken One of our good friends (and one of my favorite people) moved there a few years ago, and we’ve been meaning to make a trip out ever since. We finally made it happen, and we had the pleasure of experiencing full immersion into the lives of two local dudes making a living climbing up into coconut trees and removing the nuts for folks all over the island — and making awesome stuff with their spoils. I’m actually planning on dedicating a full post to the two of them and their business (Roots and Branches if you want a sneak peek), but suffice it to say that Al Smith and Hans Heinz — R & B founders — know their coconuts. 

One of the projects Hans was working on during our visit was to supply shredded coconut to a local brewery for a coconut porter, and I got to sit in on initial sample production — and take home the winnings! In my carry-on luggage, I brought home a zip-lock bag full of fresh Hawaiian shredded coconut, which will be featured in today’s recipe! 

I have so much more to share about all things coconut I learned from Hans, but for now, this recipe will have to suffice. It’s super easy and pretty quick too. And as always, it’s just the baseline for your own intuitive cooking. I encourage you to switch up the herbs and spices or to add in some heat if you want (my body doesn’t love spicy lately, but this recipe lends itself really well to spice). Whatever flavors suit your fancy will work with this simple starting point.

paleo tropical coconut chicken

You better believe I drank that coconut creme right up too! Some went in my coffee, some went into smoothies, and some went right in my belly on its own.

Quick Chicken Story

If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you know that chickens wander freely the way pigeons do on the mainland. I wouldn’t say they’re present in enormous flocks, but there are LOTS of chickens EVERYWHERE. paleo tropical coconut chickenDespite having been to Kauai back in the late 90’s, I hadn’t known about the chicken situation, so seeing them roam freely on roadways, in parking lots, on the hillsides, along the beach, and even passing through our outdoor seating at a restaurant was pretty amusing to me.

We had a whole family of come through as we enjoyed our signature margaritas at Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican after our Sunday beach cleanup with Hawaii Ocean Ambassadors. The babies were so cute that Loren couldn’t resist picking one up mid-meal. I was a little nervous that he might be bringing chicken germs a little too close to our meal, but the little chicky was so cute that it didn’t matter.

Seeing these little guys and gals running around everywhere gave new meaning to the classic joke about chickens crossing roads — which wasn’t lost on one of my travel buddies who is obsessed with puns and dad jokes. So going forward, chickens will make me think of Hawaii. That’s why I chose to make this coconut recipe with chicken. 

Paleo Tropical Coconut Chicken
Serves 2
super easy recipe, adaptable to every palate by switching up the spices and/or adding some heat to it with cayenne or habanero.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 oz chicken tenders (about 8 tenders)
  2. 1.5 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1/2 cup coconut oil
  5. Seasonings - I used Simply Organic Lemon Pepper and Real Season Salt
Instructions
  1. Crack eggs into a shallow bowl and beat until completely uniform
  2. Spread shredded coconut out on a large flat plate
  3. Heat coconut oil in a shallow cast iron skillet at medium-high heat
  4. When oil is hot (test by dropping a piece of coconut in and seeing if it sizzles)
  5. dip chicken tenders into egg on both sides then into shredded coconut on both sides until coated
  6. Place coated chicken into pan and cook on both sides until done in the middle (a few minutes each -- the coconut should brown a little)
  7. Cover a large flat plate with 3-4 paper towels and place cooked chicken on paper towels to absorb some of the oil
  8. Season immediately on both sides (make sure at least one of the seasonings you choose has some salt in it, otherwise they'll be a bit bland)
  9. Repeat until all chicken is done
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

No Time to Make Bone Broth? No Problem!

I’ll start off by saying that this post is about bone broth, but I feel like I need to acknowledge some things about my post from last Tuesday first. 

So last week I took a big risk by sharing that things over in CWB land haven’t been going so great. As a self-proclaimed bone broth aficionado and healthy living blogger, it can feel self-sabotaging to admit that things aren’t always going perfectly well in my kitchen and in my body. There’s the fear of losing face, and maybe even losing credibility to you guys, but I felt like being honest about what I’ve been dealing with might bring to light that even professionals who have a body of knowledge and experience to tap into struggle from time to time. We’re all human, even those of us in the blogosphere who put on the rosy cheeks and share our fancy soups and potions every day. 🙂 

I’ve already started the process of turning my health (and sense of wellbeing) around, but it IS a process, and, like everything else in life, I’m taking it one day at a time. Thanks for some of the sweet notes I’ve already received in support of the struggle I shared on Tuesday — you guys are all so great, and I can’t express enough how much I appreciate the CWB community. 

Bone Broth Routine

One of the things that used to be part of my regular routine was making gigantic batches of bone broth and freezing them in jars so that I can use it every day. I let that go for a while, and (likely due to a number of other not-so-great food choices I was making) my skin started to erupt. I also mentioned a while back that I decided to go off of hormonal birth control, and as someone with PCOS, I’ve experienced a whole other set of annoying issues that I’m working on with an ND. You can imagine what physical symptoms like unwanted body hair, acne, and “backne” do to a woman’s self-esteem, so I haven’t been feeling so hot when I look in the mirror lately either.

But I can honestly say that I’m already feeling things shifting in the right direction, and part of what’s helped me jump back into the bone broth habit is getting some of the pre-made stuff to save me from the labor of making my own until I was able to make it a priority again (which I have — the freezer is again filled with jars).

That stopgap of pre-made broth is what I want to talk to you about today. 

free kettle and fire bone broth

Kettle and Fire Bone Broth

I’ve shared this company with you before, but when I did, it was called Bone Broth Co. They’ve since upgraded the name, the website, and the product line to include not only grass-fed beef bone broth, but organic chicken bone broth as well.

I’m in love with this product for a number of reasons, but one is that it’s the only high-quality broth you’ll find in a tetra pak. What does that mean to you? For starters, it means it’s a shelf-stable product, so it can go in your pantry until you’re ready to open it up for immediate use (no thawing required). AND it means that shipping is cheaper and requires less packaging because there’s no need for temperature control like there is with frozen broth competitors. 

So you might be asking yourself what the difference is between Kettle and Fire and the brands you see in boxes on your grocery store shelves. And I can’t emphasize enough the difference in quality between those products (even the ones that are calling themselves bone broth) and what Kettle and Fire delivers. 

Here are a few differences:

  • Kettle and Fire uses only organic or grass-fed animals to produce their broth.
  • Kettle and Fire uses only organic produce to flavor the broth, giving it complexity, not only in flavor but in nutrient profile.
  • Kettle and Fire cooks their broth for 24 hours, ensuring that every ounce of goodness from the bones lands itself into the broth you’ll be sipping.
  • Kettle and Fire is the ONLY shelf-stable broth on the market that actually gels in the refrigerator (believe me, I’ve done a few tests on this myself). 
  • There’s not a single shelf-stable broth on the market that can make ALL of these claims. 

Why does my bone broth need to gel?

A good, nutrient-dense bone broth will gel (like jello) in the refrigerator and need to be scooped out with a spoon into your coffee mug or sauce pan for warming (unless you’re into eating meat jello, in which case you’re my hero, and maybe a little weird). The gel indicates that the joint and skin-supporting nutrient collagen has made its way from the boiled bones into the broth. It’s also a good indicator that everything else you were looking for in your healing potion is in there, namely a substantial amount of protein and amino acids.

Amino acids

FAQ bone broth acne cureGlutamine is a big one for gut health and is prevalent in a well-prepared (gelled) broth. Its anti-inflammatory and healing properties support gut health, muscle development, immune strength, and internal healing — especially from illness or injury due to strong prescription drugs. If you’re showing signs of a leaky gut, glutamine-rich bone broth should be on your list of healing foods to start consuming right away.

Glycine offers a powerhouse of benefits, including joint and skin support, muscle-building and protection against wasting, the
building up of a healthy gut lining, immune support (even protection from certain cancers), and digestive support. It also helps stabilize blood sugar, which is key for those at risk of diabetes or insulin resistance. 

Arginine is another inflammation-fighting amino acid that’s been associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, protection against mental deterioration, performance enhancement, and improved immune function.

Proline another amino acid essential in collagen formation, so it’s helpful in tissue repair and joint and skin support. It also supports cardiovascular function, contributing to the prevention of arteriosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries). 

All of these nutrients are what make up the healing elixir that is bone broth — the same liquid gold that helped me cure my lifelong acne.

Without the gel, there’s no way for you to know how long the broth was cooked, what the ratio of bones to water was, or how much of the good stuff you’re actually getting in each serving. The gel is the simplest and most obvious indicator to look for in order to know that what you’re getting is concentrated and top quality. 

FREE Kettle and Fire Bone Broth

If you’ve been curious about the healing powers of bone broth, it’s probably because you’ve been experiencing some form of gut problem. Whether it’s bloating or indigestion, IBS or IBD, food allergies or sensitivities, skin issues or hormonal imbalance, bone broth is one of the tools you need to help you get back to vibrant health. 

You could spend the next 4 or 5 weeks headed down the rabbit hole on the web in an attempt to learn about how to heal your gut. Combing through the fluff to get to truly useful health information can be a real challenge, especially if it’s not your area of expertise. Lucky for you, starting today, you have access to the Gut Health Super Bundle, which not only gets you the best resources for gut health on the web, it also gets you two FREE boxes of Kettle and Fire Bone Broth! Get into it!

free kettle and fire bone brothGut Health Super Bundle

This amazing selection of resources includes 5 e-Courses, 16 eBooks, 44 videos, and 846 recipes to get you well on your way down the path to gut health. You’ll begin your journey with the Getting Started Guide, which features the first four resources you need if this is all new to you.free kettle and fire bone broth

A great first eBook to flip through is Zero Effort Gut Health: 10 Shockingly Easy Changes Anyone Can Make For Better Gut Health! by Dena Norton. As a wellness coach, I like Norton’s approach of taking small, simple steps to affect long-term changes in overall health and wellbeing. I recommend picking just one of her steps as a starting point and mastering it before adding the next one in. Once you get this bundle, you’ll have plenty of time to make your way through all the resources for maximum benefit — and this year just happens to be the year that the folks at Ultimate Bundle have made massive improvements with how you can access the bundle online. You’ll have a special access page with your own unique login where all of the elements of the bundle are organized in a way that helps you find exactly what you’re looking for exactly when you want it. 

Here’s the thing though. The Gut Health Super Bundle is only available for a limited time. The wonderful experts and bloggers who’ve contributed their books to the bundle can’t afford to slash their prices for long, so you have until March 27th at 11:59pm EST to get your bundle and your FREE Kettle and Fire bone broth. 

More Free Stuff!

And there’s another bonus I almost forgot to mention. Get Kombucha is adding a $20 gift card to every bundle purchase. You’re probably aware of the importance of consuming probiotic foods to help support gut health. If not, you’ll learn everything you need to know with the Lacto-fermentation eCourse in the bundle. And then you’ll be able to go spend $20 at Get Kombucha to get yourself started on the living food journey. 

Don’t forget, this is a limited time offer, so don’t miss it. Get your bundle now. 


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Gut Check: Confessions of a Burnt-out Blogger

I have a confession to make.

I haven’t been holding up my end of the wellbeing bargain. For the last year and a half or so, things in my corner of the world have been BANANAS, and I’ve let all the frenzy and urgency inch out some of what’s most important to me.

Simply put, I haven’t been taking care of myself in the ways I know I should — in the ways I want YOU to take care of YOURSELF. And I can feel it. I can feel it in my energy levels and in my digestion. I can see it on my face and in my midsection. I can feel it in my tight shoulders and clenched jaw. And it was all confirmed when I went to get a routine teeth cleaning and my dentist discovered my first cavity in like 15 years. I was shocked.

So today, I’m delving back into my long-lost love here at Cultivated Wellbeing — gut health. This first long post in quite a while will be part confessional, part educational, and part excitement to share what’s helped me get out of my rut. 

Consider it a life lesson in listening to your gut — or a gut check, in the literal and figurative sense. 

gut check ultimate gut health super bundle

Confessions

Because I know myself and my body pretty well, I’ve known for a good 6 months or so that something needed to change. But for some reason, until these last few weeks, I just couldn’t get myself to make even the smallest adjustments to get back on track.

Whether it was the winter blues, this election cycle, the full-on burnout I was feeling from work, or all the rain we’ve been getting, I just couldn’t motivate. And every day I’d wake up and tell myself that today would be the day I’d turn it all around — and then it wouldn’t happen.

Here are some of the things I’d been battling:

  • Craving sweets after every. single. meal. and giving in to the cravings 90% of the time
  • Skipping work outs regularly
  • Hitting snooze 4 and 5 times every morning before rolling out of bed exhausted
  • Getting to work late every day and still managing to work way too much
  • Finding myself constantly distracted and on edge
  • Making frequent concessions to food rules I’d had firmly in place for myself for years — too much dairy, too many fried foods, too many white, processed carbohydrates, meals with no vegetables (or not enough), and lots of dessert

And on top of all of that, I hadn’t been keeping up with the things I love to do. I hadn’t been blogging. I hadn’t been making kombucha or bone broth consistently. I hadn’t been feeling inventive in the kitchen or cooking as often. I wasn’t writing much of anything. I was down to climbing only a few times a month, whereas before I was going a few times a week. And even my succulent obsession was on hold — something I almost never stop doing, regardless of how busy I get. (I’ll blame that at least partially on the incessant rain, but it was all adding up to misery.)

This doesn’t sound like me, does it? Something had to give.

Gut Check: Literally

Because some of what I’ve been feeling has danced on the edge of actual depression, I’ve taken two steps to ease myself back into the groove of self-care:

  1. I made an appointment to talk to a therapist (more on that in another post)
  2. I decided to relaunch my crusade to spread the word about gut health (and include myself in the audience — I need to revisit all this info too!)

If you follow me on social media, you’ve already seen some of the second step in action. I shared the multi-part series I created on gut health. My “Why Gut Health Matters” series draws connections between gut health and other systems and functions of our bodies and offer suggestions for how you can take charge of your health by sealing your gut and fortifying it with healthy bacteria. 

The key to addressing the whole mashup of symptoms — from IBS to acne, from depression to auto-immune diseases — is in finding and stopping chronic inflammation. If you followed along in that series the first time, you might remember this infographic:

Why Gut Health Matters

Chronic inflammation manifests in so many bodily and emotionally felt symptoms, as you can see from the illustration. And cooling it down can feel impossible if you’re stuck in a rut (as I’ve been). I revisited this series because I needed to jump-start the healing process for myself after going on a “health hiatus.” But I also found another comprehensive resource that I’m pumped to share with you right now.

The Gut Health Super Bundle

If you’d like to ensure that The little note in my inbox from the folks at Ultimate Bundle sharing this amazing collection of eBooks, classes, tutorials, guides, and freebies couldn’t have come at a better time. It was actually exactly what I needed to see. It offered a gentle reminder of what I’d been neglecting and provided the tools I needed to get myself back on track.

I’ve had the opportunity to comb through everything in this bundle already, and it’s definitely safe to say that there’s something for everyone, no matter where you are on your health journey. And I really mean that. I say that because sometimes you see these types of bundled products online, and they’re either so basic that a simple google search could get you there for free, or they’re so esoteric that they’re not useful unless you have a PhD in the topic. This bundle hits that “Goldilocks” sweet spot — it’s just right.

What’s Inside?

If you’re a gut health newbie (or you want a refresher), you can start with the Foundations of Gut Health and Getting Started sections, where you’ll have access to 4 eCourses and 2 eBooks.

If you have (or suspect you have) a gut-related health condition, such as hormonal imbalance (like me), IBS, candida problems, or gluten sensitivity (also like me), you can learn about how to address your concerns with the help of 6 eBooks and 3 eCourses. 

If you’re already on-board and ready to dive in and start making changes in your life and yummies in your kitchen, the Gut-Healing Foods and More Recipes sections of this bundle are right up your alley. There you’ll find 8 eBooks and 2 eCourses to help you get started making bone broth, fermenting your veggies, making kombucha, learning about cooking for special diets, and much, much more.

And then there are the bonuses, which I’ll be telling you about next week! I hope you’re on the edge of your seat, because the bonuses happen to be my favorite part of the whole bundle!

The bundle isn’t quite for sale YET, but it will be really, REALLY soon. I can’t tell you enough how much these resources have helped me dig myself out of the rut I’ve been in. I know they’ll help you too. 

Set a reminder for yourself now by clicking the button below so that you’ll get a little note when it’s time to buy. And stay tuned, because I’ll be telling you all about those bonuses really soon. 

Note: This offer is no longer available. If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss out on the next offer like this, join my newsletter here.


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.

Amazing Salad Dressing: Coconut Lemon Vinaigrette with Bitter Greens

Every once in a while I have a stroke of inspiration in the form of an amazing salad — and an amazing salad dressing to go right along with it. It might sound weird that I find inspiration in a bowl of lettuce, but my passion for creating great salad truly runs deep. (Almost as deep as my passion for creating a great soup, but not quite — maybe in the warmer months the salad wins … )

As a great friend of mine once said, “a good salad is the gateway to healthy eating.” Once you master something simple like a truly scrumptious salad, there’s no limit to the vegetables you can consume!

Really, you can  put pretty-much anything into a salad if you’re thoughtful about how the ingredients will talk to each other — including warm ingredients, which happen to be one of my favorite things to use to make a salad interesting. I sautĂ©ed some shrimp in coconut oil to toss into this salad, but roasted chicken or grilled lamb could also work with these flavors — or skip the meat and use this salad as a side dish for a larger spread. 

amazing salad dressing

Requirement: Homemade Salad Dressing

The most important ingredient in any salad is the dressing. You can ruin perfectly beautiful produce with crappy dressing, so don’t skimp on quality — make your own. I have a pretty strong opinion about store-bought salad dressing,  and also some really simple tips on how to make your own at home, so don’t get overwhelmed. I promise, it’s not hard, and you’ll thank me when you taste the difference.

In fact, the jewel of today’s recipe is actually the dressing. The whole salad is delicious, but rest assured, this dressing takes the ingredients from good to great. I served this salad at a dinner with friends, and the next morning I got a text asking for the amazing salad dressing recipe. It’s that good!

Amazing Salad Inspiration: the Mighty Kumquat

I found my starting point at the fancy natural foods market by my house. They had a basket full of beautiful kumquats right in the middle of the produce section, and I just knew I had to find a way to use them.amazing salad dressing

Unlike just about every other citrus fruit, the meat of the kumquat is sour, while the rind is relatively sweet.  Tiny enough to pop right into your mouth, the kumquat is meant to be eaten in its entirety, skin, seeds and all. And honestly, so much of what’s healthful about citrus fruit goes into the compost bucket — the rind and seeds take kumquats to new nutritional heights!

High concentrations of vitamins A and C, tons of fiber, riboflavin (part of the B complex), and antioxidants like beta carotene make kumquats a pretty fantastic source of goodness for your body.  I can’t get enough of them when they’re in season.

Palate Balance

Once I had my kumquats, I needed to offset the tart with some bitter, sweet, and umami. I went with frisĂ©e and red radicchio for the leafy bits (bitter). Then I remembered that I had leftover beets at home from a killer smoothie I made for work (sweet). Hint: You can get the pre-boiled beets at most grocery stores to make this step simpler.

I topped the salad with fresh-grated Pecorino Romano, an ingredient that’s good on just about everything (umami). 

And now the long-awaited amazing salad dressing … 

Coconut Lemon Vinaigrette
I promised easy for homemade dressing, but this particular one I'd say is one step up from beginner, only because it requires a special tool: an immersion blender. BUT, because we're going for a thinner consistency than homemade mayonnaise (the main reason to use the tool), I think it would work just fine to use a food processor or blender instead. It's only three steps, still pretty easy!
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Prep Time
3 min
Prep Time
3 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 egg (needs to be high-quality, because you'll be consuming it raw)
  2. the juice of 3 Meyer lemons and the zest of 1 of them
  3. 1/2 cup(ish) extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1/2 cup(ish) avocado oil (this is my favorite)
  5. splash of apple cider vinegar (I use this one )
  6. 1/2 tbs coconut milk (best coconut milk ever)
Instructions
  1. In a jar large enough to fit the immersion blender inside, add 1 raw egg , the juice of 3 lemons, and all of the oil
  2. Blend these ingredients in the jar to make a thinned out mayo
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients in and give another quick pulse of the blender
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/
That’s it, you’re done. Toss this creamy goodness into your salad, and you’ll be off to the races. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. I only link to products that I USE and LOVE. All opinions are my own.

Seafood Stew: CWB-style Cioppino [RECIPE]

Soup might be my favorite thing ever. My more-than-mild obsession with soup has become a running joke between me and Loren — I say, “I love soup. Did you know that about me?” and he says, “No! I had no idea.” This week’s Seafood Stew with White Wine Reduction is a combination of an Italian-style cioppino and a “put whatever’s in your fridge into the pot” soup. It turned out amazing, and I made enough to last us all week for dinner. 

Cold weather brings out the soup-lover in me like nothing else, and I’ve gone as long as a week straight eating it for every meal (including breakfast!) more than once this season already. I love how instantly warming it is to lap up the steaming broth — and I hate being cold, so it’s truly a winning combination.

Soup is also a vehicle for my daily dose of bone broth, so it saves me a bit of time and an extra coffee mug to just eat it for breakfast.

seafood stew

Seafood Stew for Breakfast? No! (Sneak peek) 

I mentioned eating soup for breakfast, but this particular recipe isn’t one of the ones I’ve adapted for breakfast. While I’m definitely a person who will eat non-breakfast food for breakfast, I didn’t find myself wanting to eat seafood first thing in the morning. (If you’re into it, by all means, go for it! It just wasn’t calling to me in the morning hours.) I’ll share a “souper” simple breakfast soup with you soon, so get excited for that! There’s my big “sneak peek”!

In the meantime, enjoy this deliciousness, which can be served with rice, tiny pasta, a big hunk of crusty bread, or none of the above — I included a few sunchokes from the garden in this recipe, so that’s a small amount of starch if you’re trying to stay low(-ish) carb.

Intuitive Cooking

As usual, I did minimal measuring. That’s the beauty of soup — it doesn’t have to be exact. It also doesn’t have to have these EXACT ingredients. I opted for all wild-caught, fresh seafood. Clams are usually included in seafood stew. If you like them, knock yourself out. I don’t love them so they aren’t included. Crab is another delicious option that wasn’t available when I made this. You could also opt for larger shrimp or prawns, again not available when I made this.

Be creative! Have fun, and enjoy being in your kitchen! This one takes a while, but it’s worth it to have something awesome waiting for you when you get home on these cold winter days!

Seafood Stew with White Wine Reduction
Serves 6
an easy take on Italian cioppino with a few extra ingredients
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb squid
  2. 1 lb white fish (I chose wild cod)
  3. 1 lb bay shrimp (also called "salad shrimp")
  4. 1 lb mussels
  5. 2 cups (or a large jar) seafood stock -- chicken or veggie stock works too if you don't have seafood stock
  6. 1 (26 oz) box POMI Strained Tomatoes
  7. 3 cloves garlic -- chopped or pressed*
  8. 2 lemons (finely zest one, largely grate the zest of the other, slice for garnish)
  9. 4-5 sunchokes, diced
  10. 2 large carrots, chopped
  11. 3-4 ribs celery, chopped
  12. 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  13. 2 tbs tomato paste
  14. 1 cup dry white wine (like a chardonnay)
  15. fresh herbs, chopped* (oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, or a combination)
  16. 2 tbs avocado oil or EVOO
  17. Real Salt
  18. Black pepper
  19. OPTIONAL: cracked red pepper, Pecorino Romano
Instructions
  1. Mince the garlic and set aside
  2. Clean the squid and chop them into 1-inch rings
  3. Clean mussels if needed
  4. Cut fish filets into 2-inch pieces
  5. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat
  6. Add chopped onion, carrot, and sunchoke to the oil and saute until tender
  7. Add garlic and stir until garlic becomes fragrant and golden brown
  8. Add the squid in and reduce the heat -- you want them to cook slowly over about 10 minutes to avoid them turning rubbery
  9. Add in the white wine and the large strips of lemon zest, raise heat again and cook for about 5 minutes
  10. Add the strained tomatoes, the tomato paste and the chopped fresh herbs (leaving a bit of parsley for garnish at the end)
  11. Raise the heat for a few minutes to get things boiling and then reduce down to a simmer and cover for another 15-20 minutes
  12. Add a generous pinch of salt and as much black pepper as you want (I used about a teaspoon) before covering
  13. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into the pot taking care not to allow any seeds in
  14. Add in the rest of the seafood and cook for another 5 minutes or until the mussels open and the cod is opaque
  15. Remove the large slices of lemon zest
  16. Serve over your choice of starch (or without one at all) and top with more fresh parsley, the finely grated lemon zest, and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
Notes
  1. *I often have my garlic herb salt on hand to create short cuts in recipes like this. I included the garlic and herbs separately for those who don't have this wonderful blend on hand, but if you have it or something like it, feel free to use it instead of doing all the garlic and fresh herb chopping. I will often still add more fresh herbs to increase the green quota in a dish, but this blend will save you so much time in the kitchen. Just a word to the wise!
Adapted from Epicurious
Adapted from Epicurious
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

Seasonal Affective Disorder – Why am I Sad in the Winter?

seasonal affective disorder negative ions

Many of us (myself included) struggle to adjust to a loss of day light after we “fall back” into Standard Time for the fall and winter. Leaving work in the dark, getting less time outside in the sun, and feeling rushed in the evenings can all contribute to a sense of dreariness this time of year. Also, for me personally — I really hate being cold. But hating being cold isn’t enough to make a person SAD. Let’s get to the bottom of this together.

Defining Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Some people are more susceptible to the change in weather than others, but we all feel it from time to time in the winter. Even the snow bunnies feel it. A more severe version of the winter blues could be the result of a biochemical change, resulting in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The Mayo Clinic defines Season Affective Disorder (SAD) as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons … a subtype of major depression.’

Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

These symptoms are pretty similar (if not the same as) other forms of depression, and just like depression, they’re more likely to affect women than men. But why are they grabbing folks in winter who are otherwise non-depressive at other points during the year? What’s so special about WINTER?

Why am I Sad in the Winter?

A few things are happening in our bodies (and in our lives) this time of year that could contribute to SAD — or even a less severe version of the “winter blues.” As I hinted above, a lack of sun exposure directly relates to a few of these, which I’ll explain as best I can.

Vitamin D 

Less exposure to sunlight means less vitamin D synthesis, which can sometimes mean a change in mood and energy for those who are sensitive. In a meta-analysis to review the connection between vitamin D deficiency and depression, researchers found a consistent correlation between low vitamin D concentration and depression in adults.

Combating the lack of sunlight with vitamin D3 supplements is a good idea for most of us here in the SF Bay, as we live far enough from the equator to be concerned about deficiency.

seasonal affective disorder circadian rhythm

Circadian Rhythm (aka, our body’s biological clock)

The quantity and quality of light that enters our eyes (specifically the retina) affects our natural body clocks, and when the light changes, our energy levels, motivation, mood, and sleep patterns can all change with it.

Insufficient sunlight (entering through the eye) causes the brain to do extra work to produce melatonin, which is crucial in regulating sleep and has been linked to an increase in depressive symptoms. We want enough melatonin to get a good night’s sleep, not too much, which can prove problematic.

When we stop receiving a flood of bright light in the morning, our brains and bodies lag behind. Some people adjust quickly, some people have a harder time adjusting.

“The body clock takes its cue from sunlight, especially that in the morning. But as you get up into the northern-tier states, there’s a 4½ hour delay in sunrise in mid-winter versus the summer … in the middle portion of the U.S., there’s a two-hour difference … This difference is enough to affect circadian rhythm timing and throw the body clock out of sync.” (WebMD source)

Conclusion: The change in light is a major trigger for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Light Therapy

seasonal affective disorder sun boxWith sunlight in shorter supply during winter months, it’s important to get outside when the sun is out, to look up and soak in the rays. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break when the sun is at its highest. 

If the sun does come out before you get to work every day, consider taking a walk first thing in the morning, and face the sunrise as much as possible. Do what you can to spend time outside, even if it’s chilly.

But sometimes that’s not enough, and we need to take extra measures to get adequate light into our brains.

One of the most effective treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorders is light therapy. Using a special light box (or sun box) that contains special light bulbs that mimic the sunlight can activate the parts of the brain that regulate our body clocks. Facing a sun box in the morning for as little as 30 minutes — say, while you’re eating breakfast or getting ready for work — can have a dramatic impact on your mood. 

According to Michael Terman, PhD, director of the Winter Depression Program at New York Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University Medical Center, using a sun box “keep[s] your body clock on its springtime cycle during the winter, and that’s how the depressive symptoms are lifted.” Pretty crazy right?

I’ve actually been doing this for about a week now and can already tell the difference. Maybe it’s too soon to tell, but I definitely feel more myself after using the one linked above while I’m doing my hair and make up in the morning.


Warning: there can be side effects to using a light box, and since so many of my readers come here for skin issues, I need to be clear: If you take medication that makes your skin sensitive to light, including skin medications, some anti-inflammatory medications, and certain herbs, talk to your dermatologist or PCP before starting light therapy.

If you have bipolar disorder, light therapy could trigger mania, hyperactivity, or agitation. Talk to your doctor before giving it a try.


Negative Ions

seasonal affective disorder negative ionsThis is where we get into some interesting territory. Let’s start with a little background. 

Ions are atoms with an electrical charge (positive or negative). Negative ions are found in greater concentrations around waterfalls, mountains, and beaches — natural places, typically large bodies of water. Decades of research has shown a correlation between increased negative ions and increased serotonin

You can reap the benefits of negative ions by frequenting the environments where concentrations are naturally high, but in the winter, these places are often inaccessible. One winter option is to actually purchase a negative ionizer (affiliate link) for your home. Before you do that, take note that research on the efficacy of negative ions to reduce depression or anxiety is not conclusive. It’s a hypothesis that’s been tested with varying results. Give the linked research a look before you purchase. 

Cold and Flu Season

In working on this blog post I actually learned something new myself. In the wake of a viral infection, it’s common to feel depressive symptoms. Did you know this? I sure didn’t, but it makes a lot of sense. When your immune system is in high gear, so is inflammation in the body and brain — this is the natural progression our bodies go through to fight infection. It’s a good thing in the end, but it can sure make us feel like crap. Here’s a brief explanation from Psychology Today:

“Our immune, neurologic, and psychological systems are closely intertwined. When there is a foreign invader in your body, like the influenza virus, your cells produce proinflammatory cytokines, non-antibody proteins that activate and organize your body’s immune response (Raison 2006). These chemical proteins circulate throughout your body and communicate with your brain, which in turn produces its own cytokines. These brain cytokines lead to fever, fatigue, depressed mood, lack of appetite, lack of motivation, social withdrawal, poor concentration, and altered sleeping patterns. In other words, the physical sickness caused by the inflammatory response significantly overlaps with depressive symptoms.”

We learned from my series on gut health that inflammation is very closely tied to mental health, sleep, and stress. Depression is correlated with leaky brain (a permeability that can both cause inflammation and be caused by inflammation). So it shouldn’t have surprised me that an inflammatory immune response would trigger depressive symptoms.

seasonal affective disorder

Take Care of Yourself this Winter

This time of year can be brutal — I’ve already had two colds this year and December has only just begun. Take care of yourself by practicing good hand washing hygiene, staying away from sick friends, and staying home if you do come down with something. You can also boost your immune system by eating foods rich in vitamin C and zinc, avoiding inflammatory foods, exercising, getting enough sleep, and avoiding unnecessary stress.

Remember, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression — it can be tempting to isolate, to curl up with a blanket and Netflix, to eat too much raw cookie dough or an entire bag of chips when you’re feeling down. Do your best to resist these temptations: find support in your social network rather than trying to do it all on your own. Take advantage of any resources you might have to help you, and don’t be afraid to ask. 

If you’re susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, these steps, in addition to experimenting with light therapy and/or negative ion therapy could make the difference for you this winter. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor before embarking on the light therapy journey if you have any relevant diagnoses, and take care of yourself. 


FTC DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored post but I will receive compensation if you use the links in this post to purchase Bone Broths Co. bone broth. I’m proud to call this company a partner and work with them to bring bone broth to as many people as possible. All opinions are my own.

Protect Sensitive/Blemished Skin with the Best Natural Sunscreen

I’ll start this post out by saying that I’m a huge fan of Botanic Organic skin care. Today I’m going to give Nancy Newsom (founder of Botanic Organic) the floor to share how best to protect troubled skin (acne, sensitive, blemished) during the sunny summer months with the best natural sunscreen. I met Nancy at a women’s entrepreneur event in San Francisco over a year ago, and after trying out a few sample products, I was hooked. We discussed my years of skin drama (and my eventual cure), the scarring that resulted, and the best ingredients to use for topical skin care to help keep my acne-prone skin looking its best. In fact, we’re working together to get my favorite products to you at a discount, but more on that at the bottom of this post.

Mineral Sunscreen (Natural Sunscreen)

One thing Nancy insisted on without giving me even an inch of leeway was the need for a daily facial sunscreen. The word “natural,” as in “natural sunscreen” is implied here, because BO products are among the cleanest you’ll find out there. I make that distinction, because some of the chemical sunscreens (even those designed for sensitive skin) are so questionable that you might actually be better off without them — wear a hat and call it a day. I haven’t done enough research on my own to draft a solid post about this topic, but here’s a quick reference from the Environmental Working Group that explains some of the risks of chemical sunscreen, including endocrine issues (something women with PCOS certainly don’t need). 

I’ve always hated putting sunscreen on my face. I hate that gross slick, that heavy feeling, that non-breathable gross glue that passes for natural sunscreen that you find on the shelves at Whole Foods (and I used to work there, so I’ve tried a LOT of them). Remember that stuff from the 80’s that was made in fluorescent colors trying to make slathering straight zinc oxide all over your face seem cool by making it pink or green or orange? I think it was called Zinc. Or Zinka. I can’t tell if this awesome picture I found is actually from the 80’s or if this is a new product that’s trying to be as “cool” as the one from the 80’s I’m thinking of.

best natural sunscreen

photo source linked

ANYWAY, you get the idea. But in the spirit of practicing sun safety as we approach what will likely be our warmest summer on record, I asked Nancy to write a guest post showcasing her “Toni-friendly” sunscreen options. Hilariously, she starts off right away with the ingredient I just complained about — zinc oxide. And I’m happy she did — I actually learned something about how and why it’s good for problem skin, and I bet you will too. 

Both of natural sunscreen products she shares are great — I use them without complaint, which is definitely saying something. In fact, I’ve already written a review about the Raspberry & Green Tea Daily Defense Moisturizer as part of my Summer Travel Skin Care strategy. It’s my favorite facial sunscreen of all time. 

Take it away, Nancy!

Zinc Oxide for Sun Care and Acne-Prone Skin

nancy newsom botanic organic best natural sunscreen

– Nancy Newsom, Founder and CEO of Botanic Organic

At Botanic Organic, we’re big fans of zinc oxide for skin care because of its ability to both protect and repair skin. Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound that can prevent sunlight and ultraviolet rays from penetrating the skin and can also act as a barrier to protect skin from outside irritants. As a sunscreen, zinc oxide reflects ultraviolet rays away from the skin and provides protection against sun damage. It is particularly effective against long-wave UVA rays and appears to block out the harmful rays without actually penetrating the skin. (The two choices for sunscreen on the market are chemical barriers and physical barriers. Zinc Oxide is a physical (mineral) barrier and doesn’t pose the potential health risks mentioned in the EWG article linked above.) 

Sun Exposure for Acne-prone Skin

Why should acne sufferers be particularly careful about wearing a sunscreen? Tanning appears to cover up redness and dry up the surface of your skin, making some blemishes fade away temporarily. In reality, tanning causes skin irritation, especially if you stay out a bit too long and burn yourself. This adds to redness and leads to peeling, both of which may later aggravate the appearance of acne. Tanning also breaks down collagen. Collagen is one of your prime defenses against wrinkles because it keeps your skin elastic. When skin loses collagen, not only are you more likely to see wrinkles but your pores may appear larger as well.

Sun Exposure for Acne Scars

Those who are dealing with discoloration or scarring from acne may be tempted to sit in the sun to “even out” the dark marks or “camouflage” them with a tan. Unfortunately, sun is the last thing your scars need. Scar tissue is different from normal skin. Scars are less resistant to ultraviolet rays and much more prone to sunburn, especially if they are fresh. Prolonged sun exposure can also permanently darken a scar, especially in people with darker skin complexions. Therefore, scars should be protected from prolonged, direct sun exposure year round, not just during the warmer summer months. Using a sunblock on your face every single day is extremely important for this reason.

A sunblock containing zinc oxide may help to prevent scarring and hyper-pigmentation with moderate acne. Additionally, some potential scarring from severe acne might also be avoided with regular use. By reducing inflammation and encouraging proper collagen growth, the skin is able to repair itself and prevent future damage. Please remember that you may be at risk for increased sun sensitivity if you’re using an acne treatments. Products such as Accutane, Retin-A, and even over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide ointments recommend avoiding sun exposure due to an increased sensitivity.

 botanic organic best natural sunscreen

Natural Sunscreen, Antiseptic, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant … 

Sun blocking benefits aside, zinc oxide has mild astringent and antiseptic properties making it useful for acne and wound care. It is suggested that zinc for acne is effective because it can kill bacteria that causes red bumps during breakouts. By killing bacteria, the inflammation is reduced and pores can then be easily cleaned. It may also reduce overall inflammation and its antioxidant properties can help reduce skin damage during breakouts. Zinc oxide has been used for a number of dermatological conditions beyond acne, including infections, rosacea, pigmentary disorders (melasma), and basal cell carcinoma. [1]

High SPF zinc sunscreens can feel a bit thick and chalky for daily wear on face and neck. With this in mind Botanic Organic developed Raspberry & Green Tea Daily Defense Moisturizer. We designed this formula to encourage everyday use and included 11% zinc-oxide to provide a significant physical barrier to reflect UVA/UVB rays. Our customers who suffer from blemished skin find that it helps to control oiliness and acne without feeling heavy on the skin. Additionally, vitamin and antioxidant rich oils which are good for acne, provide organic nutrients to replenish skin and guard against environmental depletion. Green tea extract and sea buckthorn oil soothe redness and promote skin cell regeneration to aid in repairing UV damage. Shea butter, raspberry seed, buriti fruit and hemp seed oils have the natural ability to absorb a spectrum of UV radiation and therefore provide an extra degree of sun protection.

Read other Botanic Organic product reviews

Simplify Your Skin Care: Double Cleansing with Botanic Organic

Summer Travel Skin Care Made Easy with Botanic Organic


BO + CWB = <3

Great news! Nancy and I are joining forces to offer you an exclusive discount on all of my favorite Botanic Organic products! As soon as the page is built, you’ll be able to go straight to the products I use to help keep my skin looking great, and try them out for yourself. They’re all natural, organic, pure, and gentle — so clean you can eat them. We’ve been talking about doing this together for quite a while, and I’m so happy it’s finally happening! Stay tuned!


Resources

1. Mrinal Gupta, et al., “Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review,” Dermatology Research and Practice, July 10, 2014; http://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2014/709152/.

Cook-Ahead Meal: Italian Turkey Meatball Recipe

turkey meatball recipe

It’s been a while since I shared a recipe, and this Italian turkey meatball recipe has been on the docket for literally months at this point. It actually took me a while to dig up the pictures I took. Life has been BANANAS lately in the way of making time for CWB, which makes me simultaneously sad for the blog but excited for all the things that are happening in life outside of this project. I hope you haven’t forgotten about me in my infrequent posting lately! I hope to get back to at least weekly posting now that I’ve gotten a better handle on my routine. Now, on with the show!

turkey meatball recipe

Kitchen Hack: Cook-Ahead Recipes

Speaking of life being bananas, making time to cook every night has become increasingly challenging, so in an effort to continue to eat at home (and at a decent hour) while still getting everything else done, I’ve started making bigger pots of food and eating them for many meals — including lunch the next day. This is not a new concept by any stretch, but sometimes it’s hard to actually carry out in the CWB household. Sometimes, we plan to eat the same thing for a couple of nights and then we gobble it all up at once (not a great plan for me, zero consequences for the tapeworm I live with). 

Still other times, I intend to make enough food to eat for a few nights and then freeze the rest for next week, but then I forget about it and it goes bad in the fridge. And I really REALLY hate wasting food. Not good.

All this is to say that making meatballs can be the answer to a lot of these problems. So today’s kitchen hack is really just MEATBALLS. I mean, obviously this can apply to lots of different foods, but meatballs are SUCH an easy thing to make and freeze, and they’re small enough that they’ll cool while you’re eating dinner and be ready for the freezer by the time you’re done (no forgetting about them!) In fact, if you feel as strongly as I do about having a few meals for now and a few for the freezer, you might even double this recipe (depending on how many people you’re feeding at home). 

turkey meatball recipe

Cook-Ahead Italian Turkey Meatball Recipe

This recipe fed us for a night or two, me for lunch a few days, and we even invited a couple of friends over for dinner and finished them off with them. Depending on how hungry you are, 2 or 3 will do the trick.

Each time we ate them, we did something different — that’s the beauty of a really tasty meatball. It isn’t limited to just pasta and tomato sauce. It can work as a meat dish all its own with whatever sides you want; it belongs in Italian Wedding Soup (or any broth-based soup); it can sit on a bed of greens for a salad; you can even eat one with your eggs and greens in the morning. They’re a lot more versatile than you think. And the dirty dishes for this project include 1 cutting board, 1 chef’s knife, 1 cookie sheet, and 1 bowl. That’s it. 

Enjoy!

Cook-Ahead Italian Turkey Meatballs
Yields 18
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 lbs turkey (1/2 light, 1/2 dark)
  2. 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  3. 1 large egg
  4. 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (stems removed)
  5. 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
  6. 1/2 tsp REAL salt
  7. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  9. 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  10. avocado oil for greasing the pan
Instructions
  1. preheat oven to 375
  2. add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix gently by hand
  3. form meat balls about 1.5 inches in diameter (slightly bigger than a golf ball) and place them about 1/5 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet
  4. bake for 15 minutes
Notes
  1. makes 18 to 20 meatballs
  2. great for freezing for later
Cultivated Wellbeing http://cultivatedwellbeing.com/

5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin [INFOGRAPHIC]

I’m excited to share a guest post today, featuring an infographic that focuses on nutrients for healthy skin created by Samantha Thayer. Samantha is a Health Educator and blogger in the health and wellness space, and we met on the interwebs because of a shared passion for holistic health and wellness.

Acne Cure

CWB covers a wide swath of topics (because I have a wide swath of interests) but one of the biggest reasons people are drawn to this site is for skin health information — specifically acne remedies. I had some seriously miraculous luck in clearing up my lifelong acne a couple of years ago, and since sharing my experience and some science behind why it worked, I’ve made connections with readers and bloggers across the globe who have either experienced similar results or are looking for answers for themselves. From time to time, I come across someone like Samantha who has a simple, easy-to-implement message that I think would be helpful to my readers in their quest for healthy, clear skin.

Heal from the Inside Out

The most important message I want those of you suffering with skin issues to receive is that healing starts from within. No amount of creams or potions will work topically if you aren’t providing your body with the right nutrients for healthy skin. What you eat matters, and this infographic is a great depiction of how to take care of your skin by feeding yourself properly.* 

*If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you know that I’m not a big fan of low-fat dairy. I still chose to share this infographic instead of asking Samantha to redo it for my audience, so I’m making this brief caveat and offering a suggestion in its place. You can find my personal views on low-fat or skim milk in my post 7 Foods you Think Are Healthy But Aren’t.

I wouldn’t be sharing this post from Samantha if I didn’t stand behind the claims she makes.

Samantha shares vitamin A as one of the key nutrients for healthy skin. I agree with her on the importance of vitamin A; but there are other, more ideal food sources of vitamin A than dairy of any kind (which frankly I think shouldn’t be consumed at all if you have acne), such as fermented cod liver oil and organ meats.

If you want to consume dairy, I recommend full-fat dairy that comes from organic, pasture-raised animals, preferably raw. Even then, if you have acne, something as insulinogenic as dairy should be limited if not totally avoided until you get your skin under control, and from there I’d recommend proceeding with caution.

Eat Healthy Look Healthy: 5 Key Nutrients for Healthy Skin

– Samantha Thayer, B.S, CHES

nutrients for healthy skin

It might surprise you that what we consume is just as important as the products we use topically when it comes to keeping our skin healthy.  It’s important to get the nourishing nutrients we need in order to look and feel our best.  

So, what are the most vital nutrients for healthy skin? And how do we find them in the foods we eat? 

  1. Eat foods rich in Vitamin A.  This vitamin is important for overall skin health.  Foods rich in vitamin A are carrots, organ meats, cod liver oil, and dairy products.
  2. To help prevent age related issues caused by sun exposure, make sure you get plenty of Lycopene in your diet. Some foods that contain Lycopene are tomatoes, guava, and watermelon! 
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids help nourish the skin and regulate oil production. Fish, flax seeds, and eggs are all examples of foods high in Omega-3s.
  4. Vitamin C. This vitamin can help fight wrinkles. Some foods that are rich in Vitamin C are sweet potatoes, squash, melons, and citrus fruits.
  5. Vitamin E helps repair damaged cells. Get the benefits by eating nuts and seeds.

Supplements for Healthy Skin

It’s also very important to have a healthy digestive tract to keep your skin looking great. (Learn about the connection between gut health and skin health.) Here are some additional nutrients to include in your diet to help keep your gut and skin healthy:

Fiber – Foods rich in fiber will help your digestive system remove waste and cleanse from within. Fiber also feeds the good bacteria living in your gut that protect your gut lining, preventing the skin and other health issues caused by leaky gut.

Probiotics – These healthy bacteria will help balance the flora your digestive tract, keeping less helpful bacteria and yeast in check. Probiotics are also helpful in supporting a healthy immune system and keeping inflammation in check. 

Digestive Enzymes – Enzymes assist in the breakdown of the foods you’re eating. While the human body is capable of producing its own enzymes, it’s sometimes helpful to supplement if you find you’re having particular absorption issues that could be manifesting in your skin. 

Check out the infographic below that illustrates the importance of proper nutrition and a healthy gut to help keep your skin healthy!

nutrients for healthy skin   

This article was contributed by Samantha Thayer, B.S., CHES, who is an online education and outreach specialist for USANA Health Sciences.  Infographic design is by Taylor Romney and used with permission.  For more information on health and wellness, feel free to visit us at her blog, What’s Up, USANA?.

4 Ways to Stay Hydrated for Weight Loss

I’ll go ahead and say that the hormonal shifts I’ve experienced since going off of birth control haven’t done wonders for my waistline. I spent a couple of months in total distress about what felt like an out-of-control rising of the number on the scale due to hormonal fluctuations. All told, it ended up being just enough weight to make my clothes uncomfortable and negatively impact what I saw in the mirror. And it felt like it would never go away. 

I focus a lot on positive self-image here at CWB, and I go out of my way to insist that a few pounds here and there really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But sometimes attacking extra pounds is just that — it’s not loaded with meaning if you know why it’s happening and you’re approaching it healthfully and mindfully (ie, de-coupling weight from self-worth).

I’m almost back to the size I was when I got off hormonal birth control back in the late fall, so I can confidently say that the work I’m doing is working. And in addition to some diet changes (which I’ll share in another post), one of the things I’m doing is making sure I’m drinking LOTS of water. 

Weight loss isn’t just about vanity — it’s about being healthy, happy, and confident — and as long as we can have a healthy approach and mindset around this touchy topic, I think we can have a productive conversation about it. Don’t you? Awesome. OK, let’s talk about how integral it is to stay hydrated for weight loss.   

stay hydrated for weight loss

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Extra Snacking

Staying hydrated keeps us from being tricked into eating more than we really need. It’s actually pretty common to confuse thirst for hunger, so we can use that information two ways for our weight loss strategy.

First, if you find yourself hungry between scheduled meals (and yes, I certainly think you should schedule your meals, preferably 3 to 4 hours apart, if you’re trying to lose weight), consider that maybe you’re thirsty instead. Drink a glass of water or a mug of caffeine-free herbal tea before diving into a bag of chips. You might find that the hunger subsides and you’re able to wait til your next meal to eat.

Second, drinking water before a meal accelerates the feeling of satiety. A recent study showed that when obese adults drank 16 oz of water before each meal, they lost 9 lbs over the course of a 12 week period as compared to the control group. These results were due to the effect of starting the meal with a partially full stomach — satiety was reached sooner with fewer calories per meal

Another study from the University of Illinois found similar results: “People who increased their consumption of water by one, two or three cups daily [independent of meal timing] decreased their total energy intake by 68 to 205 calories daily and their sodium intake by 78 to 235 grams. They also consumed 5 grams to nearly 18 grams less sugar and decreased their cholesterol consumption by 7 to 21 grams daily.”

So the two big takeaways to remember here: We sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, and water itself can make us feel fuller faster. Kicking off a snack with a big glass of water could 1) curb the craving entirely or 2) reduce the size of the snack you’re about to eat. Both awesome things when you’re trying to lose a few lbs.

Stay Hydrated to Avoid Sweet Cravings

I mentioned earlier that we can sometimes confuse thirst for hunger. Taking thirst a step further into the more sever territory of dehydration, not only do we think we’re hungry, now we’re experiencing cravings.hydration for weight loss

Cravings due to dehydration can take the form of any kind of food, but often, we crave sweets. Why? Because our organs require water to function properly and process the nutrients we take in. Specifically, the liver uses water to release glycogens (a form of glucose that gives us energy) and other components of energy stores. When we don’t have adequate water in our system, adequate glycogen can’t be processed — and that’s when the sugar craving strikes.

For me personally, the sugar cravings can really get out of control, so this is particularly relevant. Using water to control sugar cravings hadn’t really crossed my mind before, but it works.Humans are more than 60% water, so think of it like oil in an engine. Without the oil to allow things to flow properly, metal grates on metal and the engine stops — or worse, burns up and is destroyed. By drinking adequate water, we become well-oiled machines, working just fine without unneeded 

Track Your Daily Water Intake

While there isn’t an official standard for how much water an individual should drink, a simple guideline for weight loss is to drink (at least) half of your weight in ounces. It’s a super easy way to come up with your daily goal for water consumption — with very little math. So a 150 pound person should aim to drink 75 oz of water per day. It might mean more trips to the bathroom at first, but you’ll get use to it.

You can’t change what you don’t track.

If there’s anything I’ve learned as a coach and as a guinea pig for my own ideas and lifestyle strategies, it’s that there’s absolutely no way to know what works if you don’t keep track of what you’re doing somehow. There are so many simple ways to track — especially now with personal apps at your fingertips to make that job easier. But seriously, a simple pen and paper work great too. Or a picture. Have you ever started a diet or any kind of big change and actually taken “before” pictures? (If you have checked out my most popular post about how I cleared my acne, then you know that I’ve done this more than once.) You live with yourself every day, so you don’t see changes over time, so that picture is worth a thousand words. You have to set a baseline so that you can know when something’s changed. 

And in the case of tracking your water, you’re using that measurement not just as a baseline but as a way to set a goal for yourself. You’re way too busy to keep track of each ounce of water you drink. That’s a ridiculous request. But you can most certainly use a bottle, jar, or glass with a known capacity and track how many times you fill up. If you drink out of a 24 oz bottle and you weigh 150 lbs, set a goal to have at least 2 bottles of water throughout your day at work, and aim to get the fourth bottle and those few extra ounces (75 oz total) in before your head hits the pillow. Everyone can count to three, right? Another option is to get a container that you know can fit your total water needs for the day and just use it as a pitcher — some people really like to drink out of a glass instead of a bottle, so this would work great for them. Easy peazy.

hydration for weight loss

Drink Water

Soda isn’t water. Coffee isn’t water. Tea isn’t water. Sports drinks aren’t water.

I’ve focused on water with a quick mention of herbal tea for a specific reason. It’s because other drinks (including sports drinks!) don’t count toward your water count if you’re really shooting for hydration and weight loss. Coffee and tea are diuretics and do the opposite of keeping you hydrated, not to mention that they’re often accompanied by cream and sugar. If you want to drink them, go right ahead, but they don’t count toward your trackable daily water intake. (And consider dropping the sugar.)

We’re talking about weight loss here, so surely you know that sodas aren’t included in this list at all — diet or otherwise. These drinks contain not just the undesirable high fructose corn syrup or fake sugar, but also sodium and caffeine. None of which is helpful for staying hydrated. (Although caffeine in moderation — and especially from green tea — can sometimes be helpful for weight loss.) 

As for sports drinks, they’re also loaded with sugar and salt. Sure, sodium is an electrolyte, but unless you’re severely dehydrated or finishing up a huge race or physical undertaking, there’s no reason to sip on sports drinks. There’s certainly no place for sports drinks in an office or in front of the TV.

The common thread through this whole section is this: DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES. Drink water.

Infuse Your Water with Natural Flavors: Fruits, Herbs, Fresh Spices, or Veggies

If water is boring to you, try infusing it with natural flavor. And as I said up top, most herbal teas are fine to count in your total water intake — as long as they’re not taking up the bulk of your daily water intake. 

Infusing your water is super simple. You can infuse one serving of water (more work) or you can get a pitcher or dispenser and fill it up with your desired flavors (less work). If you let it sit for a few minutes or even hours, the flavors become stronger. Just make sure to refrigerate it after a few hours to make sure nothing gets funky.

Here are a few fun suggestions:hydration for weight loss

  • ginger lemon: peel and slice or crush fresh ginger, slice some lemon (and even squeeze some)
  • strawberry basil (or mint): slice the strawberries, toss the basil or mint in whole
  • blackberry fennel: slice fennel bulb and greens, toss the blackberries in whole
  • cucumber mint: slice the cucumber, toss the mint in whole

Herbal tea: this one is tricky. Any tea you’re drinking for hydration should first and foremost be caffeine-free. Caffeine is actually a diuretic and does the opposite of what we want — it’s dehydrating. Herbal teas include things like chamomile, fruit teas (make sure there’s no sugar or fake sugar), and hibiscus tea. There are so many herbal teas to choose from, but some herbs have medicinal properties so make sure you know what you’re drinking before you start guzzling herbal teas. They make for a great alternative to coffee if you’re looking for something warm and a great alternative to iced tea if you want something cold with a bit more flavor.

Water for Weight Loss

So that about covers it. Water helps stave off sugar cravings, curbs your appetite, and decreases over all calorie consumption if you drink enough of it. It’s crucial as part of any successful weight loss/maintenance strategy, and essential for the proper function of our organs. As the weather starts to warm up and you find yourself outside basking in the sunshine or taking a brisk walk after lunch, have a bottle of water in tow. Stay hydrated to stay safe and healthy, and drink you way to a healthy weight too!

Free Coconut Oil Just for You

Coconut oil has slowly made its way into the main stream, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  Admittedly, I live in my little Bay Area food bubble, and things I see as commonplace are “weird” or “crunchy” in other parts of the country, but I challenge you to check your local super market and see if there isn’t at least one choice for coconut oil on the shelf!

Better still, if you haven’t yet experienced the joys of having this delicious, healthy source of fat and flavor in your kitchen, I challenge you to get yourself a free jar

FB_Nutiva_1200x628

Yes, a FREE jar of coconut oil

Find out how to get your free jar

But first, let me tell you about why you might want to try it out (if you haven’t already).

Coconut oil has historically been demonized for its high level of saturated fat. But the fat in coconut oil is different. (The saturated fat debate in general is fodder for another separate discussion, but if we’re in search of the “good” saturated fats in the world, coconut oil is at the TOP of the list!)

The main type of fat present in coconut oil is medium­-chain triglycerides (MCTs), fats that the body can burn off quickly for an instant burst of energy. The body doesn’t tend to store MCTs in adipose tissue (fat) in the body, so many prominent paleo bloggers, biohackers, and other nutrition experts are touting coconut oil as an aid for weight loss.* I will put a little asterisk there, because while I don’t advocate counting calories, calories do count. If you start adding a big scoop of coconut oil to your daily diet but don’t change anything else, chances are you’re going to be consuming more calories than usual — not the best weight loss strategy. But eliminating inflammatory, processed oils and replacing them with coconut oils could do wonders for your waistline.

What I WILL say is that lauric acid, an MCT found in coconut oil, is akin to a miracle substance (I won’t say drug). It’s anti-everything: microbial, viral, fungal, and parasitic. It’s an amazing compound that doesn’t harm the good bacteria in your gut but can help take care of the bad stuff in and around you. It’s certainly great for problem skin and for all sorts of homemade products for your body and household.

Check out an amazing guest post by a good friend of mine and coconut oil evangelist, Dana Gelsomino, to learn 9 reasons you should have coconut oil in your life.

Uses for Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is not just great for cooking — although yes, it is great for cooking. It’s a high-heat oil that can be used for frying, baking, roasting and grilling.

Here are the ways I use coconut oil nearly every day of my life:

  1. Facial cleanser (check out my Vibrantly Healthy Skin protocol)
  2. Skin moisturizer (either alone or in homemade hand salve or lotion bars )
  3. Cooking breakfast (I love it with eggs. Some people don’t. Give it a whirl.)
  4. Scooping into smoothies
  5. Calming my dog’s rashes (and trying to prevent her from licking it off)
  6. Roasting
  7. Sauteing vegetables
  8. Stir-frying shrimp (last night I made shrimp with coconut oil, coconut aminos, and top-quality fish sauce. They were perfection.)
  9. Make up remover

Other less daily uses include:

  1. Gunk remover
  2. Baking
  3. Oil Pulling
  4. Deep hair conditioning
  5. Fatty Coffee
  6. Pancakes
  7. Chocolate bark

It’s clear I could go on forever. Coconut oil is really an amazing ingredient to have in your kitchen.  

This week, Thrive Market is offering all first­-time members a FREE full­-sized (15 ounce) jar of Nutiva organic, fair­ trade virgin coconut oil! 

Claim your jar before they’re gone! CLICK HERE.  The free coconut oil applies to new members only, but if you are already a member like I am, you can get 10% off your purchase at this link (and pick up some of those coconut aminos while you’re at it). Full disclosure: There is a $1.95 shipping charge for the coconut oil. This still ends up being about 13 cents per ounce, which is an amazing deal.

Don’t miss your chance! Get yours today!

GiftBox_Nutiva_011416_300x50

–> Pin this offer to share with your friends! <–


FTC DISCLOSURE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive monetary compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. All opinions are my own.