Healthy Holiday Gift Ideas

Happy December to all of my amazing Grow in Wellness followers! 

Back in October I shared with you that Grow in Wellness has grown into something new. . . Thrive & Dine. Thrive & Dine helps take the guesswork out of finding the healthiest choices for dining out and cooking at home. We look for the best in organic, sustainable and delicious foods.

If you haven’t already hopped on over to see what Thrive & Dine is all about, please come and check us out.  Sign up and receive a free shopping guide to make choosing products on your next trip to the grocery store a whole lot easier.

Plus, this week we shared our Favorite Picks for Holiday Gifts and a review on a great juice bar in Corona Del Mar. 

Don’t miss a thing!  Sign up to Thrive & Dine today!

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Plus, you'll be shown easy and delicious ways to integrate your new ferments into tasty, everyday recipes.


Click the link below to get started!

Academy of Culinary Nutrition Fermentation Course

Growing to New Places



To all of my loyal Grow in Wellness followers, I send you a big “Thank You” for your ongoing support these past three years.  I have enjoyed sharing with you delicious recipes, new products and the latest in ways of how to improve your health. 

The focus of Grow in Wellness has been promoting the concept of eating whole, organic, real foods and moving away from processed foods (and foods that appear healthy, but really aren’t).  One of the most difficult parts of staying on track with eating in a way that supports a healthy body is dining out. Grow in Wellness has created a way to make choosing a healthy restaurant easier. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a resource for where to dine out on healthy options? To know which restaurants not only choose organic produce, but also seek sustainably raised beef, poultry and seafood? Restaurants that care about our planet and your health? To know what brands you should be reaching for at the supermarket? To have recipes that make the most of each season’s produce?

If you answered yes to any of those statements, then please join me as Grow in Wellness moves to Thrive & Dine, a new website that promises to bring you answers to those questions and more.  Join our mailing list now and get a free Pumpkin Smoothie recipe… just in time to celebrate the flavors of fall. 

"What Kind of Yogurt Should I Buy?"


This is one question I am frequently asked to answer and I can understand why.  Navigating the yogurt aisle at the grocery store can be stressful. There are dozens of brands and variations of yogurt formulations. You’ll see mainstream brands like Danon and Yoplait and options like Greek yogurts, sheep’s milk yogurt, soy and almond milk yogurts. You can even find yogurt spin-off’s like kefir and lassi.

Before we get to which type of yogurt I recommend, let’s first take a look at why you should include yogurt in your diet and what an authentic, good quality yogurt looks like.

Yogurt is a food produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria are known as yogurt cultures, of which there are a few varieties. Yogurt has been around for thousands of years and thus considered a “traditional fermented food” when properly made. The benefits of eating yogurt lie in the key word: fermented.  It is through fermentation that our body gets vital probiotic strains that aid digestion, support gut-health and help fight infection (1).  It can even help reduce cholesterol and aid in weight loss. 

But here’s the thing . . . you need to be eating the RIGHT kind of yogurt products to get these benefits! Much of our commercial yogurts do not make the cut. The key component to any yogurt worthy of your spoon is the presence of live active cultures (verifed by reading the ingredients list and looking for words like L. acidophilus, L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, bifidus, L. paracasei). 

Other components to look for when shopping for a quality yogurt are that it’s made from whole milk, or worse case, 2% (NO Fat Free products allowed!). Also check that there are no added sugars (or artificial sugars). Milk has some naturally occurring sugars, so what you’re looking for is an ingredients list that does not include sugar in any form.  If you’re still with me, then Yes, I’m saying you need to buy plain, whole milk yogurt with live active cultures and then sweeten it yourself.  Self-sweetening allows you to control the level and source of sugar. Fresh fruit, a teaspoon of raw honey or 100% maple syrup, even a ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract, are all delicious ways to customize your flavor profile while keeping sugar, artificial ingredients and calories in check.  If you want to up your protein intake, then reach for Greek yogurt, which, when made authentically, is strained and creates a higher protein content and a thicker consistency.

My favorite yogurt is the homemade version I make, but for those times I need to purchase, my go-to brands are Wallaby Organic Whole Milk Yogurt, Siggi, Stoneyfield Organic Grass Fed yogurt and Organic Valley.

If you typically reach for Yoplait, Danon, Activia, or even Chobani, then it’s time to make the switch. The Cornucopia Institute has a rating sheet on their site that lets dozens of brands rated for the quality of ingredients including live active cultures.  Here’s the link to see how your favorites fared.


(1) site source Dr. Axe

Shop Healthy at Costco - 16 Picks

Costco, the ultimate bulk-buying store. Traditionally, bulk-buying doesn’t translate to healthy eating, but things, they are a-changing at Costco these days!

I will confess that I am not a regular Costco shopper. I go there a couple of times a year to stock up on paper towels and toilet paper, but since we are mostly empty nesters, it’s not often we need apples that come in packages big enough to feed a small village or artichoke dip that can feed 50 people.  That being said, I have a lot of friends who love to shop there and they have asked me to please tell them what they can buy that is healthy.

I was skeptical that Costco had anything that could be considered healthy by my holistic, culinary nutritionist standards because bulk food is often highly processed (translation: stripped of nutrients, added chemicals to improve shelf life) and rarely organic or fresh. It is even sometimes wasteful - - even when you buy a bag of thirty organic pears at a great price, if you can’t eat all of them before they go bad, then you’re just being wasteful and no money is really saved.  Okay, back on track . . .

I rose to the challenge of “what can I buy at Costco that is healthy?” and headed off to Costco to see if I could answer that question in a meaningful way.  After spending longer than I planned cruising through the warehouse, I was surprised to find that not only did they have healthy options, but enough of them that I could come up with a list. I chose the least processed items I could find and selected only those I would actually buy. So for my Costco junkie friends and anyone else who loves to shop there, enough waiting, here you go:  

1.   Kerrygold grass fed butter

2.   Perfect Bar protein bar multi pack (see my review on Perfect Bar here)

3.   Okami Organic Edamame

4.   Fresh organic blueberries, raspberries and blackberries

5.   Earthbound Farm Organics vegetables (various options to choose from)

6.   Suja organic fresh pressed juices

7.   Silk Almond Milk

8.   Dave’s Killer Bread- organic, 21 whole grains and seeds

9.   Frozen organic blueberries

10.    Kirkland organic extra virgin Olive Oil

11.      Kirkland 100% real maple syrup

12.     Nutiva chia Seeds

13.     Seeds of Change pre-cooked quinoa and brown rice packets

14.     Wild Planet sustainably pole and line caught wild albacore tuna

15.     Organic Tortilla Chips

16.     Clif Kid Organic Z Bar multi pack 

All Costco stores have a little variety in what they carry; this list is not comprehensive and I’m sure there are more possibilities that could be added. 

Do you see any of your favorites on this list? Is there something you’d like to see on this list, but isn’t there? Let me know in the comments below. 

Head to the Farm!


One of the best things to happen to the healthy, casual restaurant scene in Orange County lately is the addition of L.A.'s popular Mendocino Farms. My first taste of this awesome sandwich and salad shop was while visiting my oldest, who attended college near the Marina Del Rey location. It is more than just a trendy place for college kids to grab a sandwich or salad; it is a great place to dine on fresh ingredients with awesome flavors.

It's an “order first, sit down, have your food delivered to you” kind of place.  Concrete floors and rustic wood planking add charm to the atmosphere, right down to the “Eat Happy” Sign.

Mendocino Farms partners with regional farms to keep The Mendocino Farms menu full of seasonally fresh ingredients. They use artisan breads for their sandwiches and their chicken comes exclusively from free-range providers Pitman Farms and Petaluma Poultry.  Their pork and turkey are antibiotic free and humanely raised. They have vegan and vegetarian options and they offer gluten free bread. Drake Family Farms supplies their dairy related items. They use organic produce whenever possible. These key components not only support a healthy body, they support local farms and a movement toward conscientious eating.

The menu has a variety of choices with creations that reflect the foods of faraway places (how about a Thai Spring Salad, Samosa Dosa or Pork Belly Bahn Mi?) as well as more familiar favorites that have been creatively upgraded with great ingredients: the Sophisticated Chicken & Prosciutto Salad adds market roasted vegetables and fresh mozzarella and their version of a BLT involves carved balsamic-glazed steak and roasted tomatoes on pretzel bread.  There is a weekly Chef’s Pick and they rotate a portion of their menu seasonally to take advantage of each growing season.

Thank goodness they expanded to the OC so I could get my “Mendo” fix a little more often. What are my go-to favorites? If it’s a sandwich, it’s the Chicken MBT (shaved chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, pesto, balsamic vinegar tossed greens on ciabatta) or if I’m in the mood for a salad, it’s the Modern Caesar (kale, romaine, butter lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, crispy wheatberries and Grana Padano cheese, shaved chicken optional). Mouth watering goodness.  Hungry yet? Head to the Farm and share in the comments what your favorites are!


(If you like knowing about healthy restaurants in Orange County, California, stay tuned . . .  Grow in Wellness has a big announcement coming this summer!)

Grow in Wellness Wants to Hear From You!

Photo by gerenme/iStock / Getty Images

Let's face it, it's tough to navigate the world of healthy eating.  There are a multitude of messages touting everything from heart healthy foods to promised weight loss. Nearly every product on the store shelves has a label filled with buzzwords designed to make you choose them to spend your dollars on, whether or not it's truly good for you.  Choosing meals at a restaurant is even trickier since it's rare to know the source of ingredients in each dish or what kinds of oils are used to prepare them. Cooking at home is always the best choice, but finding new, healthier recipes and learning how to cook with unusual ingredients can be overwhelming.  And if you want to go a step further and choose better-for-your-body skin products, then knowing which way to go can make you freeze in your tracks from all the confusion.

If you can relate to any of the above scenarios, then Grow in Wellness wants to hear from you. What are your biggest frustrations with grocery store shopping? What is hardest about choosing a restaurant when you want to eat out? How easy is it to sort through menu options and know which dishes are better than others? Are you bored of your home recipe collection? Do you wish you could bring healthier meals to your family dinner table? Have you ever considered the effects of what body care products you use and want to make improvements?  

Grow in Wellness wants to help you make healthier choices and the best way to do that is to have you tell us what your biggest struggles are.  Please share your thoughts through the comments section or email them directly to  Can't wait to hear what you have to say! 

Score a FREE jar of Justin’s Almond Butter



Peanut butter lovers, rejoice—there’s a new nut butter on the scene. Meet Justin’s Classic Almond Butter, a delightfully simple spread that will win over even the most devout PB&J fans. An added bonus? It’s naturally gluten-free, vegan, and Paleo-friendly.

Whether spread on toast, or drizzled over apple slices, Justin’s Classic Almond Butter

is the MVP of snack time. Made from just two ingredients—almonds and sustainably sourced red palm fruit oil—this almond butter is as wholesome as it is delicious.

Often, manufacturers try to jazz up nut butters by adding sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Justin’s, on the other hand, is the real deal—this almond butter doesn’t need any sweeteners or fillers to make it palatable. The great taste comes from the naturally delicious almonds. Since every spoonful includes a solid serving of protein and healthy fats, you can feel good about indulging in this creamy spread.  Plus, Paleo eaters or people with peanut allergies can safely enjoy Justin’s almond butter as a peanut butter substitute!

Once you try almond butter, you’ll never want to go back to sugary peanut butter again. For a limited time, Thrive Market is offering a free jar of Justin’s Classic Almond Butter!



>>>>>>> GET YOUR FREE GIFT NOW! <<<<<<<



Do You Grill Your Guac?


There is a certain kind of excitement that comes with getting something new, whether it be a new pair of shoes, new gadget (like an iPad) or even a new favorite show on TV.  For me, the excitement over our new Big Green Egg (BGE) grill is motivating me to put close to anything I can “over the coals”. I’ll save the long explanation of the Big Green Egg, but let’s just say it’s the most amazing grill we’ve ever owned - long cook times, fantastic flavor for everything we’ve cooked, and easy to use. 

This BGE enthusiasm led me to experiment with making guacamole recently.  Avocadoes are quite possibly my most favorite food and avocado season is upon us! I love a delicious, fresh guacamole, but to add an authentically roasted flavor to it seemed like a perfect way to up the guac game. 

I prepped (aka: washed, sliced and lightly brushed with coconut oil) my organic ingredients: red onion, red pepper, Serrano chili, heirloom tomatoes, limes and avocadoes (pitted, with skin on). Then placed them face down on the grill over medium heat and cooked each until they were just starting to char and blister.  As they finished cooking, I took them off to cool.  Once they were done, I scooped out the avocado, chopped the peppers and onions and combined everything except the limes in a bowl and mashed until they came together in perfect union.  I added fresh crushed garlic, sea salt and squeezed one lime at a time until the flavor was just right.  It was a perfect compliment to our turkey burgers and doubled as a tasty dip for the grilled sweet potato fries.  A 100% cooked outdoors meal - - tastes great and keeps the heat out of the kitchen! 

You could easily adapt this concept and grill your mango salsa or grill tomatoes and bread for a twist on the traditional Italian tomato-bread salad.  How will you up your grilling game this summer?  Share your inspiration in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!


*note: Grilling slightly changes the texture of avocadoes.  If that does not appeal to you, then grill all the ingredients except the avocado and then add them to a bowl with (un-grilled) avocado and mash together for a still-delicious guacamole.

Upgrade What Goes on the Outside - Products for Our Skin


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?