Upgrade What Goes on the Outside - Products for Our Skin

skincare_confusion

There is a lot of time spent on this blog talking about food and how to make the healthiest choices, but there is more to good health than just what we eat. What goes on our skin matters, too. If you think about how a nicotine patch curbs smoking addiction and pain patches control pain, you’ll realize our skin absorbs what is put onto it – for better or worse.  We are exposed to thousands of chemicals through our hair, make up and body care products and we are not as protected as you might think. 

A 2015 study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reported these findings: 

“Women whose bodies have high levels of chemicals found in plastics, personal-care products, common household items and the environment experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of these chemicals.” 

The 40-year-old law, The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is outdated.  Many harmful chemicals do not have to be revealed if they are considered “trade secret”, so don’t think the EPA is out there with a shield and sword coming to our defense.  Here's what a report from the Environmental Working Group has to say:

“Current law requires companies to inform EPA when their chemicals are shown to pose substantial risks. EPA must publish this information, but the companies can request that the company’s name, production volumes and even the chemical’s identity be kept secret. Half of the more than 250 “substantial risk” reports filed to EPA since October of (2015) masked the chemicals’ identity.”  

It’s a sticky mess for sure and so, short of becoming a chemist, how are we supposed to know which brands and products pose the least threat?  The Environmental Working Group has a great section to their website called Skin Deep. It’s a searchable database of toxic ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products.  If you find some of your favorites get a failing grade and you want to make some changes, then here is a good place to start . . . with five of my favorite ("passing grade") skin care products: 

1.   Face Cleanser – MyChelle Refining Sugar Cleanser. This gentle cleanser starts out sugary, but melts into a nice cream that is effective without drying out your skin. 

2.   Face Moisturizer and Serums – Odacite is my favorite for serums and moisturizers, especially when used together. Available online, these formulations are so fresh, they actually have an expiration date. Not sure which products to start with? Try their 10-day discovery kit.  

3.   Sunscreen – the key ingredient for optimal sun defense is zinc.  MyChelle makes a great clear spray Sun Shield Clear Spray (that is also reef safe) and Suntegrity makes a good option for your face in both clear and tinted formulations. 

4.   Hand and Body Lotion – The Naked Bee Hand and Body Lotion and Seaweed Bath Co. are my current favorites. They go on nicely, smell good and don’t leave an oily residue. Both available on Amazon.

5.   Nail Polish – yes, our nails absorb chemicals from nail polish, so choose wisely.  OPI and Deborah Lippmann both get passing grades. 

While it is impossible to live a life completely free of exposure to unwanted chemicals and toxins, it IS possible to reduce our exposure to them. And why wouldn’t anyone want to do that? Upgrade your products, one purchase at a time and improve your health from the outside in.

Where will you start making changes? 

Berry Important News

strawberries_dirtydozen.jpg

Spring. Strawberries. Bright, plump, red. Sweet and juicy. Laden with pesticides. Move over apples, strawberries have stolen your spot as number one on the top of EWG’s dirty dozen list. 

What am I talking about?  Since 2004, the Environmental Working Group has been ranking pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables from over 35,000 samples tested by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.   They call it the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, or as it’s more commonly known: "The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15”  lists. This is the go-to guide for how to prioritize your dollars on organic produce if you cannot afford to buy (or don't always have access to) organic produce all the time.  While there are several repeat offenders each year (apples, zucchini, strawberries, tomatoes and grapes), apples have been taking home the top prize until this year's list was released and strawberries came out on top.

(Want to know more? Read all about it here)

That's all fine and good, but how does this strawberry news affect you as a consumer? This is your cue to make sure the strawberries you eat are certified organic. Bonus if they come from local farmers. And with strawberries just coming into peak season, this is the time to indulge.  If you want to really stock up, then purchase a flat of strawberries, wash, trim and slice some for immediate eating and then prep the extras for later with my berry preservation method: 

Wash, dry and cut strawberries into slices or small pieces.  Spread them out onto a cookie sheet and place in your freezer until they are frozen.  Once frozen, scoop them up into a zip top plastic bag and store in your freezer for later use.  They are great added to smoothies, stirred into hot oatmeal or tossed into salad. This works great with blueberries and raspberries, too.

Strawberries are worth the extra cost of going organic and not just to avoid pesticides. They offer a great dose of nutrition! They offer plenty of vitamin C, fiber, they support heart health and are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.

The possibilities of what to do with strawberries are (almost) endless.  How about a strawberry-cucumber smoothie? Or a chia seed pudding?  You can add them to your overnight oats, infuse your water with a few fresh sliced berries or even try them with my pesto chicken salad recipe.

So make the most of strawberry season – buy organic – and enjoy every sweet bite!

What’s your favorite way to eat strawberries?

A Bowl Full of Spring

asparagus_radish

 

While the calendar may say spring has arrived, for many of you the weather outside says otherwise. Do not let that discourage you from enjoying the 'other' things spring has to offer. The gifts of spring go beyond sunny days and cherry blossoms starting to bloom.  Your produce department – or your favorite Farmer’s Market – should be filling up with an abundance of spring’s best gifts: strawberries, sugar snap peas, arugula, sprouts, asparagus, artichokes, radishes, avocados and more.  These produce stars are not just beautiful to look at, they taste great, too.

Picking produce at its peak freshness and eating it right away is the key to maximum flavor and nutrients.  Combining spring’s bounty into a salad is a simple, easy way to enjoy them. One of my favorites is my Grow in Wellness Spring Salad, where I simply toss my favorite spring offerings with mixed greens and a homemade balsamic dressing. {recipe here}

Want a few more options? The no-recipe method is one way to go; simply chop your favorite produce and toss with a tangy vinaigrette. You can even make a warm, roasted vegetable salad and toss with a lemony, tahini dressing for something a little less ordinary.  And if a more formal recipe is your style, then here are a few from some of my favorite websites:

Spring Salad with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Warm Spring Salad

What is your favorite way to eat the freshest veggies and fruits of the season? Grow in Wellness would love to hear from you! 

 

“Spring is nature’s way of saying ‘let’s party!’” – Robin Williams

New Things From Old Favorites

I recently spent three days at the annual Natural Products Expo here in California. With hundreds and hundreds of vendors promoting their products, the truth of the matter is that most of the products are processed in some way; many of them are not quite healthy and even fewer are formulated with real, organic, recognizable ingredients.  A great representation of the food world we all have to navigate on a daily basis. But that does not mean all hope is lost!

Amidst the chaos of product pushing, I did find some great products I want to share with you. These products are a mix of new offerings from my tried-and-true favorites or new and promising products that I hope to find on store shelves, soon. 

One of the things I learned after talking to reps from these companies and asking my standard question, “what stores carry your product?” is that getting a product to the shelf of a store you shop at is quite an arduous process. Talking to your store manager and asking them to bring in your favorites can help a new product get to shelf much quicker.  So speak up if your store doesn’t have something you want to buy.  While you’re waiting, order online whenever you can so you don’t have to miss out.  Remember… we vote with our dollars, so vote for good things! 

New products from my favorite brands:

sunflower_butter

Sunflower Butter from Bliss Nut Butters.  Delicious! Great for someone with a nut allergy. Not yet on store shelves in southern California, but always available on their website www.blissnutbutters.com. My all time favorite of theirs is the Cinnamon Chia Seed Peanut Butter. Give both a try.

sprouted_baguette

Sprouted Artisan Bread and Baguettes by Alvarado St. Bakery. I am already a fan of their sprouted sliced bread line and the addition of a frozen sprouted grain baguette that will go from freezer to oven to table in less than 15 minutes is worth a smile or two.  You can use this baguette to make crostini, garlic bread or, if you’re feeling really indulgent, eat it warm from the oven with a little Brie spread on it.  Another new offering is their energy squares packed with organic seeds and nuts. Both should be on store shelves this summer.

hopefoods_guacamole

Hope Foods Guacamole.  Known for their flavorful line of hummus, Hope Foods is coming out with a guacamole in both mild and hot flavors. Perfect for when you can’t find ripe enough avocados to make your own.  Look for it in the refrigerated foods section of your market by summertime

half_half_flavored

grassmilk_yogurt

 

Organic Valley has two new products out: Grassmilk Yogurt from 100% grass fed cows and Hazelnut and Vanilla half-an-half. The yogurt is creamy, full fat (exactly what you should be eating. . . fat-free foods will make you fat!) and comes in vanilla and plain. Try the half-and-half in your cup of coffee. 

4thandheart_ghee

I blogged about Tava Life Ghee a while ago and love their green chili flavored ghee. They were back at the Expo this year rebranded as 4th & Heart (named after the heart chakra).  They may have a new name and logo, but they haven’t changed their delicious grass-fed ghee.  While I’m sad they discontinued the chili flavor, they added two amazing new flavors, garlic and while truffle sea salt. Is your mouth watering yet? Look for them at Whole Foods, Central Market and Thrive online market.

Bu_Kombucha

I know this post is long, but before I go, I have to share one last favorite brand and their new offering.  The band is The Bu Kombucha and their certified organic, 100% kombuchas come in some fantastic flavors, like chai spice, lavender and honey dew. They are adding new flavors with ginger and peach to their line, so keep an eye out for them!

A few new things without pictures include:  New flavors from Perfect Bar protein bars: coconut almond and blueberry cashew. . . New addition to the supplement drink line from Oxylent, 3-in-1 Supplement drink. . . Justin's Nut Butter will be releasing almond butter and pretzel snack packs. . . Suja pressed juices is introducing probiotic waters and Bob's Red Mill is getting in the protein powder ring with several flavors including chai flavored protein that has chia and probiotics!

Whew, that’s a lot, just from my favorite brands.  New products to share are coming soon.  In the mean time, which of these are you going to try first? Let me know in the comments below.  Have a happy, healthy day!

For the Love of Coffee

coffee_creamer

Hmmm… a warm cup of coffee in the morning just can’t be beat. It’s a national pastime, heck, it’s a day-long activity for many (thank you, Starbucks, for making that such an easy reality).  The “milk or sugar?” simplicity of dressing up your coffee is far behind us. There are dozens of ways to personalize your brew, but not all are good for your body.  I won’t go into detail on the pitfalls of artificial sweeteners (stay away!) or how the sugary, artificially made, flavored creamers in the store are chemical $h*t storms (stay away again!).

 

I will, however, share with you a great option for dressing up your morning cup-o-joe without compromising flavor or your health.  It’s dairy-free, flavorful, creamy and easy to make… and it blends seamlessly into hot coffee.  What am I talking about? Cashew Creamer.  It’s my all time favorite. I could almost drink it right out of the jar. (I actually love it in my chai tea to make it a latte.)  It takes just a few ingredients and a blender and you’ll have enough to get you through a week of morning goodness. Frothing it in a Nespresso Aeroccino frother makes it even better!

 

Do you have a healthy way to doctor up your coffee? Please share it in the comments; I’d love to hear from you.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Cashew Creamer

 

Gather these ingredients:

1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked for 4 hours, then drained

2 cups filtered water

1 pitted date

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. cardamom

¼ tsp. coriander

1 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Put it all together: 

Put all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend on high until well combined.  If you want a thinner consistency add ½ cup water or more to your preference.

Keeps for one week in the fridge in a sealed container (using a mason jar is a good option).

 

This is also good poured over fresh berries for dessert.

 

 {print recipe}

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Little Green for Your Breakfast Bowl

greenbreakfastbowl

Do you ever have one of those days that feels like a slow start?  No matter how much sleep you’ve had or how early you got up and got ready for the day, you just can’t seem to get much done?  Well, 2016 has been a little like that for me… a slow start.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about all of you! I recently earned my Culinary Nutrition Expert certification where plant-based, healing, ‘wow’ ingredients and cooking were the focus.  One of my favorite parts of the program was transforming everyday, not-always-healthy foods into powerhouse recipes that give your body powerful nutrients and keep your taste buds happy.  Today I’m sharing one of those culinary creations with you!

 

Cold, wintery days call for warm, comforting foods. Oatmeal is a breakfast favorite, but can be boring and lack diversity of nutrients, especially protein.  I’ve created a delicious way to bring a bowl of warmth to your breakfast table that will give your body a variety of super foods (think: quinoa, maca, hemp seeds, blueberries) to start your day off right.  It’s my Green Breakfast Bowl and here’s how it goes:

 

Start with one cup of just cooked, hot oatmeal (I like Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oats). Add in one cup of cooked quinoa (I use leftovers from a previous meal). 

 

Then, under low heat, (because the idea is to warm the ingredients together, not cook them) add:

 

½ cup of almond milk

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp maca

1 tsp raw honey

1 tbsp hemp seeds

and ¼ cup organic blueberries (you can use frozen in the off season)

 

Gently combine until warmed through, then remove from heat and…

mix in ¼ cup fresh, lightly chopped spinach (yes, greens in your oatmeal!).  Place into two serving bowls, top each with a ½ tsp of cacao nibs and serve.

 

Don’t let the spinach scare you from trying this recipe!  You can’t taste it and it gives you fresh greens, iron, fiber and vitamin A. For those of you brave enough to try it let me know how you liked it!


Have a happy, healthy day!

 

{Printable Recipe Here – Green Breakfast Bowl}

Taking "Diet" Off Your List in 2016

It’s a New Year and for many people that means a list of resolutions to accomplish during the next 366 days (2016 is a leap year so you get an extra day to meet your goal this year- yay!).  I propose that you don’t put the word ‘diet’ on your list and instead, create goals that lead to greater wellness.  Think positive with a focus on adding in amazing, good-for-you things that will mean less room for the ‘bad guys’ of the food world.  Good health will follow!

 

Here are my top 5 things to add to your 2016 New Year’s Goals list:

 

1.   EAT SEASONALY, LOCALLY, FRESH – The easiest way to greater health is to eat by these three guidewords.  This might mean a lot more plants that you currently eat, but your body will be better off for it.  Food that is grown locally is fresher, supports local farmers and reduces the carbon footprint on our environment.  Need a good place to start? Look for a farmers market in your area or sign up for a local CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture) that delivers fresh, organic produce from farmers near you… not shipped in from a foreign country.  I use Farm Fresh to You . They deliver organic fruits and vegetables and you can customize your box contents and your delivery frequency. You might even get exposed to some new produce you may not normally buy… that’s how I learned to love delicata squash.  Use this code (carl6213) and get $10 off your first box.

 

2.   PACK A SNACK – “Hunger Emergencies” are one of the biggest pitfalls to healthier eating.  We reach out for the nearest thing to put in our mouths to chase the “hunger bear” and most of the time it’s not even close to healthy.  What to pack? Make your own trail mix (cashews, sunflower seeds, almonds, goji berries, cacao nibs, walnuts), keep a piece of fruit with you (tangerines and apples travel well) or keep a better-for-you bar from Vega , Aloha or Perfect Bars in your purse or car to help you say no to the drive-thru or donuts.     

 

3.   LEARN TO COOK – I’m always amazed how many people don’t feel comfortable in the kitchen and so they buy premade meals or eat out often.  Cooking your own meals is not only better for you, it will save you money, too. Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma both offer cooking classes, but many local community centers and even some restaurants offer lessons as well.  And if you just can’t find time (or money) to sign up for a class, then look to You Tube for some inspiration. 

 

4.   MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY – This one probably isn’t a surprise, but getting a minimum of 7 hours (all in a row!) of sleep each night helps with stress, builds your immune system (aka helping fight colds) and helps control weight.  See my earlier post to learn more about the amazing benefits of sleep.  

 

5.   HALF YOUR PLATE WITH PLANTS – when you fill your plate at your next meal make this your goal. The more dark greens, the better.  Our country is deficient in vegetables (and fruit). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did an analysis that showed only 13.1% of adults eat enough fruit and only 8.9% eat enough vegetables.  Want to improve your health dramatically this year? Then make plants a priority when you eat.   

Add one more if you’re feeling really bold this year… 

6.  BREAK UP WITH SUGAR – in every form. From sweetened beverages and foods from refined white flours to over-sweetened yogurts and salad dressings, sugar is hiding everywhere.  There are over 50 different names for sugar on food labels.  Get to know them and then stay away.  This kind of break-up will help you lose weight and improve heart health. It’s not easy, but it has a great impact.  

These are just a few ideas for wellness goals… what is on your list?

Wishing you a happy, healthy 2016!

 

Making Breakfast a Little Easier

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the holiday season is officially underway.  Busy will define most of our days and for many, skipping meals tends to be a casualty of the crazy schedule.  A little “holiday preparedness” in the kitchen can help you stay nourished and energized for the demands of this season.

I love smoothies for their versatility and ease, but they just can’t be made ahead of time and saved for later. These little smoothie jars are a great way to have an easy breakfast or snack waiting for you, only a quick blend with almond milk is needed before drinking one up.   You can load them up with your favorite smoothie ingredients: everything from fruit to greens and protein powders and nuts.  Fill mason jars with everything except your favorite blending liquid and then store in the freezer. Soon as a smoothie craving hits, simply dump the contents of your mason jar into your blender, add 8-10 ounces of almond milk or coconut water and blend until well combined.  You can even pour it back into your mason jar to drink (depending on your jar size).

Here is one of my favorite combinations... what will yours be?

MASON JAR SMOOTHIE

Place the following ingredients into a mason jar, cover and place into the freezer. When ready to blend, add the contents to your blender with 8-10 ounces of almond milk and blend on high until well combined.

1 sliced banana

½ cup frozen or fresh blueberries

1 cup spinach

1 scoop protein powder

¼ cup cashews

pinch of cinnamon

 

Enjoy!

Are You Thriving?

thrive_heart

Are you thriving? I am and I love it. I bet you will, too, if you give it a try.

What are you doing to “up the game” of healthy eating? I know that it is not always easy to find healthy foods at the corner grocery store. Not  everyone wants to be driving from store to store trying to track down organic, healthy products that might even be new and unfamiliar. And let’s all agree, when you do find these better-for-you goods, their price tag might make you wince.

There is an alternative. It’s called Thrive Market. I discovered it earlier this year and LOVE it! Partially because I get lazy when it comes to grocery shopping, and a lot because having my favorite super foods, pantry staples (and even some splurge items) delivered to my door is a treat, but mostly because I save money over grocery store prices on items I buy all the time. 

What is Thrive Market?

“Thrive Market is the first socially conscious online store offering the world's best-selling natural and organic products at wholesale prices. We carry over 2,500 of the highest quality food, supplements, home, personal care, and beauty products from over 400 of the best brands on the market, all delivered straight to your door at 25-50% off retail prices. Our mission is to make health living easy, affordable, and accessible for every American family.”

Think if it like Costco with healthy items (and without the need to deal with finding a parking space or standing in long lines). You can even shop at 11pm in your pajamas if you want (wink). Yes, it’s membership based, but you’ll quickly find that you make that fee up within the first few orders. Or maybe your first order will make up for it if you’re a big shopper.

If you want to learn more about Thrive Market, here is a link to their site.  If you use this link you’ll receive (25% off your first order). 

25% off Referral link:  http://thrv.me/QiGHGT

For each friend that becomes a member, Thrive will donate a membership to a low-income family through their Thrive Gives initiative. What's not to like about that?

Not sure where to start?  Here are 5 ways I love to “Thrive”. 

 

Upgrade your tortilla chip to one that has a nourishing crunch

 

Go gluten free on your pasta with my favorite brand for gluten free pasta.

 

My favorite brand of quinoa  - use it in porridges, salads or mix with veggies as a side dish.

 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil at big savings for your wallet and anti-inflammatory cooking for your body.

  

Heatlhy delicious snacking:  Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds – the zinc you need for fighting off winter colds.

 

Organic Pumpkin Puree ina BPA free box.  I can just taste the pumpkin pie smoothie now! (link to old post or recipe)

 

What will be your favorite ways to Thrive?

 

 

 

 

Sweet Treats for Fall

Dessert. Taboo? Maybe. Maybe not.

I absolutely believe there is room in a healthy diet for dessert. But here comes the caveat: it depends on what you pick, how much you eat and what else you’ve been eating. Under the best of circumstances, for example, eating a plant based diet, with lots of real food and no processed 'food-like' substances, you’re probably ready for a splurge here and there. While if you are busy eating a daily diet of processed foods, refined carbohydrates and you aren’t sure when the last time something leafy and green made it to your mouth, then you might want to reconsider what you choose to splurge with. 

Whichever camp you fall in, or any in-between, if you're going to treat yourself, you want to make sure it tastes good and isn't full of crappy ingredients.  With that in mind, I have three new favorites to share with you.

SHORTBREAD WITH A TWIST

chai_shortbread

Why I like these: the ingredients list is short and full of items you can find on the grocery store shelves. They are gluten free and non-GMO project verified with no artificial ingredients. They contain just the right amount of crunch, vanilla and chai flavor.  The small, bite-size shape is good for keeping the crumbs to a minimum.

BITE-SIZE PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE

peanutbuttercup

Why I like these: Mostly because I love peanut butter and chocolate together, but also, they are made with organic and sustainably sourced ingredients. The ingredients list is leaps and bounds better than a traditional Reese’s peanut butter cup.  No mystery ingredients like polyglycerol polyrecinoleat or TBHQ. You can indulge in one or two small pieces to get a sweet-fix without having to overload on calories or sugar. 

CREAMY, FROZEN, FLAVORFUL TREAT

frozen_yogurt

When I sampled this at my local Whole Foods, I wasn’t expecting to have my taste buds met with such creamy goodness.  These frozen treats are GMO free, gluten free, soy free and are packed with 20 grams of protein... and have live active cultures, aka probiotics.  I’ve tried the Banana-Vanilla and the Chocolate – both are delicious!

Want to see more recommendations? Just let me know in the comments below.  Happy Splurging!