Turmeric Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

turmeric ginger butternut squash soup recipe

When it comes to Anti-Inflammatory soups, this Turmeric Ginger Butternut Squash one is 💯! Packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients and vegan (unless you want to add some shredded chicken!), this will warm you right up in those cold months and keep you cozy!

turmeric ginger butternut squash soup recipe

Turmeric Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 50 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Course Main Course
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 TBSP avocado oil or virgin coconut oil (unrefined)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 TBSP ginger fresh, grated
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 butternut squash or 5 cups (for 4 servings)
  • 1 tsp turmeric dried
  • 1 3/4 cup almond milk unsweetened
  • 4 cups vegetable broth low sodium
  • 1 cup green lentils dry, rinsed
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 F, cut butternut squash in half and lay it facing downward on a pan covered in foil. Cook for 40 minutes.
  • In a large pot, drizzle oil and add onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook until the onions are clear, stirring often.
  • Pour in the milk, broth, and lentils, and stir. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until lentils are cooked through.
  • When the squash is finished cooking, remove from oven, spoon out and discard seeds. Then scoop out the flesh and place in a high-powered blender.
  • Add half of the soup mixture into blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into the soup pot.
  • Stir in the baby spinach and simmer until the spinach is wilted.
  • Divide into bowls, serve, and enjoy!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

A Comprehensive Guide to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners

anti-inflammatory diet for beginners

An anti-inflammatory diet may be about the buzziest diet of the year right now. Normally inflammation occurs through the body’s immune response, which can be a healthy thing if your body is being attacked by a virus or bacteria.

But when you consistently have poor lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating a typical Western diet (which is high in pro inflammatory compounds), the body creates chronic inflammation.

This is where the large majority of Americans are, and why– seeing the staggering statistics on rising numbers of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease– implementing dietary interventions through an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle is crazy important.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

Although many people are advised to stick to an Anti-Inflammatory diet due to health conditions and chronic disease, more and more people are discovering that following an anti-inflammatory diet is the BEST way to keep inflammation in check and boost the immune system to help prevent those chronic conditions in the first place.

Foods with anti-inflammatory properties can be potent anti-oxidants and polyphenols which not only prevent low grade inflammation, but also slow down aging, keep weight under control, and help you have natural boundless energy every day.

These types of foods also prevent diseases that include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune conditions, asthma, arthritis, lupus, cancer, and even high blood pressure.

How an anti-inflammatory diet works

Although the Mediterranean Diet usually comes to mind first when Anti-Inflammation Diet is mentioned, it’s really a very broad basic guideline for a true anti-inflammatory diet. So let’s start with the basics.

The main things to start out with knowing are that:

  • Being overweight can create inflammatory markers in the body, so weight loss is recommended if overweight or obese
  • Since blood sugar spikes (hyperglycemia) is inflammatory in the body (and cause weight gain), sugars and refined carbohydrates are one of the first things to go
  • Alcohol can be inflammatory in high amounts, but there is a bell curve effect– meaning studies have shown no alcohol to have higher inflammatory rates than moderate consumption (1-2 drinks per day), and then higher amounts than this also bring the inflammatory markers back up. Red wine is the preferred drink of the Mediterranean diet.
  • Oxidated fats (those heated repeatedly) are extremely inflammatory, as well as trans fats (hydrogenated, including margarine), omega 6’s, and saturated fats from feed-lot animals.
  • Processed foods usually contain unhealthy fats, refined carbs and sugar, little to no fiber, and artificial colors and preservatives- meaning they should be eliminated from your eating plan as well.

Here are the breakdowns in terms of macronutrients:

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Proteins

Proteins should include lots of fatty fish, soy, organic eggs, and white meat. Red meat is discouraged unless it’s an occasional protein option that is organic and grass-fed.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Fats

The types of fats that are recommended are healthy fatty acids higher in omega 3’s, lower in omega 6’s, and are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated (like avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil). The ideal ratio is 1:1 for omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids to get anti inflammatory benefits. However,  most people are way over that, at 14x more omega 6 than omega 3 fatty acids. Saturated fats from red meat should be limited, but when eaten should be organic and grass-fed. This includes butter and dairy.

Coconut oil, although a saturated fat, has been shown in studies to be an extremely powerful antioxidant and contains anti-inflammatory compounds as long as it is virgin and unrefined.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be tricky to weed through. So let’s start with the basics.

Sugar and refined carbs

First and foremost, sugar and refined carbohydrates are extremely inflammatory and should be eliminated in all forms. This can be a really big deal for those who have been on a high sugar and carb diet for a while, and some even feel a true addiction to sugar when they try to eliminate it. An occasional treat of added raw honey or pure maple syrup isn’t that big of a deal.

Fiber

Fiber is the main thing you’ll look for in any carbohydrate food choice. This is pretty easy to accomplish with whole vegetables and fruits that are on the lower end of the glycemic impact scale.

Grains

People usually get confused, however, when it comes to grains. There are 2 main grains I recommend avoiding: corn and wheat. Corn is high in omega 6 fats and is inflammatory. Wheat, in this day and age, has been hybridized so many times over that it has an unbalanced glutenin to gliadin ratio (within the gluten protein) which creates inflammation in the gut.

Whole grains

Whole grains in this application is also pretty confusing. The reason is that we hear over and over that we should be eating whole grains because of the fiber.

While this is technically true, any time even a whole grain is ground into a flour, the carbohydrates are absorbed extremely fast and end up causing a blood sugar spike that rivals that of straight sugar.

For this reason, it’s recommended to eat grains only in their whole form (not ground into a flour as in bread or pasta–unless prepared a certain way), or cracked.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

What diets are considered anti-inflammatory?

Although the Mediterranean diet is the most recognized dietary style to reduce inflammation, there are several other options for anti-inflammatory diets. Which one you choose really depends on what condition/s you may need to manage, your goals for your health, and what foods you may have an allergy or intolerance to.

The main dietary styles that can help create some structure in an anti-inflammatory framework are the Paleo diet, Mediterranean diet, Keto (with a reduction in red meat and possibly dairy and an increase in fiber), Pescatarian (with a reduction in ground flours), and plant-based or vegan with modifications in terms of the grains allowed.

An elimination diet, again, is a really great way to truly get to know your body better and how different foods make you feel.

What should I expect when I start an anti-inflammation diet?

The first thing you may experience when starting this dietary style is a feeling of what is sometimes called ‘keto flu’ or sugar withdrawal symptoms. This is because most people come from a Western diet very high in sugar, refined carbs, and highly processed foods.

When you shift your diet this dramatically, your metabolism has to shift as well. However, many people find that their bodies seem to feel strange in this shift initially. It is absolutely temporary, and shouldn’t be of huge concern unless you’re having large swings in blood sugar levels or blood pressure.

Another thing to expect is a huge change in digestion. You should become way more regular. Many people, however, who have GI issues may not even know they do until starting this type of dietary style because of the larger amounts of fiber.

In this case, it’s a good idea to back off the grains and dairy and see your physician or specialist to have some testing done. They usually recommend an elimination diet to weed out any foods you may be allergic or sensitive to.

Overall you should start seeing a huge difference in 2 to 3 weeks, and a really large difference within 12 weeks.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

What foods to Eat and Avoid on an Anti-Inflammatory Food List

Since we’re starting out with a basic anti-inflammatory dietary style, it’s easier to get a little more specific in terms of which foods to eat that are:

  1. Health-promoting in general,
  2. Which foods have anti-inflammatory effects beyond general health and actually fight inflammation,
  3. And which foods to avoid.

General healthy foods to eat in an anti-inflammatory dietary style

General healthy foods include healthy lean protein like organic and grass-fed or pastured white meats, organic eggs, red meat on occasion, and only if organic and grass-fed, wild fish, and soy.

A huge increase in plant-based foods is really recommended because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants that they provide have, not to mention the huge increase in fiber. This is especially true for beans and legumes. A fiber-rich diet feeds the beneficial gut bacteria that help control inflammation starting in the gut.

Nearly all vegetables in their least processed forms are great choices, but nonstarchy ones are the best because of the lesser impact on blood sugar. Fruits, especially darker and brighter colored ones, are also fantastic choices as long as they are lower on the glycemic load scale. (Remember that high blood sugar equals inflammation.)

Grains should be limited to truly whole grains (not ground into flour) but may be cracked and still acceptable. The 2 main grains I recommend avoiding are wheat and corn because of the inflammatory components they contain.

Nuts and seeds are also great options that include healthy fats and carbohydrates as well as a small amount of healthy protein.

Healthy fats include avocado and extra virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed grapeseed, as well as virgin unrefined coconut oil. Butter can also be used as long as it is organic and from grass-fed cows. Other good options would be goat milk and cheese.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Foods that fight inflammation

Although eliminating foods that cause inflammation is the best place to start, you have to remember that most people still have lifestyle choices that promote inflammation, as well as conditions that increase it as well. This is why it’s also a really good idea to incorporate as many foods as possible that have anti-inflammatory effects.

Plants with higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols

There are certain plants and berries that have been studied for their higher polyphenol and antioxidant content and ability to lower inflammation in the body. These include blueberries, pomegranate, red grapes, apples, and leafy greens for vegetables and fruit.

Another vegetable category shown to reduce inflammation is the cruciferous family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Studies have also linked nuts to reduced markers of inflammation and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee and certain teas (like ginger, white, oolong, and green tea) can also fight inflammation.

High fiber foods

Studies have consistently shown that high-fiber foods are super important in helping a healthy gut bacteria colony grow. Healthy gut bacteria control weight, inflammation, the immune system, and many neurotransmitters that relate to mental health and hormone regulation.

These can be found in all vegetables and fruit, but a larger portion of fiber comes from whole grains like brown rice, basmati rice, quinoa, and steel-cut oats, as well as beans and legumes, including soy.

Herbs and spices

The most popular herbs and spices with anti-inflammatory effects include turmeric, curcumin, holy basil, ginger, garlic, cardamom, rosemary, chili peppers, thyme, and black pepper. Although this isn’t an all-inclusive list, these herbs and spices should be abundant in your kitchen and in your recipes. (Fresh is always best!)

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are usually included in many of the foods already recommended. However, omega 3 is an especially powerful anti-inflammatory. These can be found in fatty fish like wild caught salmon or tuna.

Other healthy fats are those that naturally occur in foods like soy, hemp, flax, and nuts (including walnuts, almonds, and cashews).

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid

In starting this type of dietary style, there are some main foods to avoid that induce inflammation. Let’s break them down (again) by macronutrient.

Proteins that are inflammatory

Red meats and processed meats are extremely inflammatory in the body, with a bit of a caveat. Part of the problem of red meat lies in the saturated fat content. However, it’s been shown in studies that red meat that is organic and grass-fed has proper ratios of omega 3 to omega 6, making this type of red meat ok to eat on occasion. Otherwise, processed meats like hot dogs, deli meats, sausage, pepperoni and the like, are inflammatory proteins.

Fats that are inflammatory

The major fats that are inflammatory include trans fats (like margarine and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils), oxidized fats (those that have been highly heated and repeatedly heated–like those used for fried foods), and saturated fat from feedlot animals.

Other oils that should be avoided include corn oil, palm or palm kernel oil, cottonseed oil, lard, safflower, sunflower, vegetable oil, soybean oil, and vegetable shortening.

Carbohydrates that are inflammatory

As said before, sugar is enemy number one. This includes ALL forms of sugar. (Raw honey and pure maple syrup are ok on occasion). The problem with this is that there are a thousand and one different names for sugar that are allowed on food labels. The best way to get around this is to eat as many whole foods as possible.

Eliminating sugar includes eliminating fruit juice, sodas, other sugary beverages, and anything that contains a sugar (that are usually named other things to throw you off), as well as fructose. This will also include fruits that are on the higher end of the glycemic load index.

Other carbohydrates that are inflammatory are refined grains. These come in the form of flours used to make breads, bakery items, desserts, and even breading for fried foods. Refined grains break down like sugar in the body and create those blood sugar spikes that induce inflammation.

Sodium

This isn’t talked about a ton unless there’s a factor of high blood pressure. However, many people find that they are sensitive to sodium. Not only does this increase the ‘puffiness’ factor, it can also induce a level of inflammation as well. It’s best to cut down on your sodium content when you begin your anti inflammatory diet to see if it helps.

Foods that you are intolerant or allergic to, or need to avoid because of a condition

It should go without saying that you should avoid foods you are allergic to. The problem is that many people don’t even know what these are. Years of an inflammatory diet have created such chronic inflammation that it can be very difficult to discern which foods you are specifically reacting to.

The same goes for foods that you aren’t technically allergic to, but have an intolerance to.

These types of foods can usually indicate a certain condition, like IBS.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with a specific condition, there are most likely a handful of foods or categories of foods that you should be avoiding already to alleviate your symptoms.

An elimination diet for inflammation

The last thing I want to discuss is an elimination diet to truly nail down which foods are inflammatory to YOUR body. The reason this is important is that there are a few different food categories that have controversial data behind it, and there are also foods that may be beneficial for you to eliminate to alleviate symptoms based on a condition you have (or may not know you have)!

These categories include: grains, gluten-containing grains, nightshades, dairy, FODMAPS, fructans, lectins, nuts, soy, shellfish, coconut, and coconut oil.

Overall, consistent research has shown that there are a number of health benefits of following an anti-inflammatory diet for people suffering from inflammatory conditions, but also for nearly everyone on the planet.

These include reduced inflammation leading to pain reduction and the ability to manage chronic pain, increased insulin sensitivity which is beneficial for diabetics, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced risk of alzheimer’s disease, lower blood pressure levels due to improved lipid profiles, and reduced chance of having a heart attack or stroke because of improved blood lipid profiles.

It is nearly the opposite of the Western style of eating, but can happen by following a few specific steps.

My CHEAT codes to wellness framework guides you through these steps so you can achieve an anti-inflammatory lifestyle without it taking over your life.

Get started on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet with a free 7-Day Meal Plan HERE! 👇👇👇

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anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Simple Roasted Tomato Soup (Easy, Vegan + Healthy)

When it comes to easy and nutritious, nothing comes closer than this simple roasted tomato soup. Not only is it full of phytonutrients from tomatoes, onion, and bell peppers, it’s also a great cold-weather comfort food.

simple roasted tomato soup recipe vegan easy healthy

Simple Roasted Tomato Soup

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 2 28 oz Canned tomatoes Italian, San Marzano
  • 1 yellow onion loosely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped and de-seeded
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper to taste
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth for vegan version
  • 2 TBSP fresh basil chopped
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley chopped

Instructions
 

  • Drizzle olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper and cook until tender.
  • Add garlic and cook about 5 more minutes.
  • Pour canned tomatoes into a high-powered blender. Add onion, pepper, and garlic mixture.
  • Pulse until smooth, then pour back into large pot. Add broth.
  • Simmer soup about 5 minutes, then add basil and parsley.

Notes

Notes:
Top with organic sour cream or plant-based sour cream (optional).
Add a grilled cheese sandwich with grain-free bread (optional).
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan
simple roasted tomato soup recipe vegan easy healthy

Creamy Collard Greens Soup

Being from the South, I’ve had my fair share of collard greens as a kid–but never collard greens soup. Well, I’ve had my fair share of adults trying to get me to eat my collard greens as a kid. I was never a huge fan (being more of the ‘addicted to sugar‘ type).

But as an adult? Not only do I know the superpower of greens, I’ve experimented through the years to see what works, what doesn’t, and what I can tolerate in the name of getting needed nutrients and fiber into my body. (Cause my body does so much better when I’m taking care of it this way!)

This recipe is not only right up there with ‘what works’, but my kids didn’t even know the difference between this and the broccoli-potato soup they regularly order at the steakhouse down the road. (Win for Mama!!)

So technically potatoes aren’t necessarily ‘frowned upon’ in an anti-inflammatory diet (unless you have to avoid nightshades). But what does happen is that they’re such a high-glycemic vegetable that it raises blood sugar pretty significantly. High blood sugar is inflammatory.

That being said, I’ve been able to sub in butternut squash repeatedly on recipes (like this one) and my kids didn’t even know! They thought they were orange-y potatoes!

So without further ado, the collard green soup that my kids think is full of potatoes… (and other greens that are NOT collards)… 😁

creamy collard greens soup recipe anti-inflammatory vegan

Creamy Collard Greens Soup

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 TBSP garlic freshly chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth low-sodium
  • 8 oz collard greens 1 bunch, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 tsp salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper to taste
  • 2 TBSP avocado oil
  • 1 TBSP hot sauce optional, to taste
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free sour cream optional
  • 5 slices bacon organic, uncured, (optional!)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and place face down on rimmed baking pan lined with foil. Once oven is preheated, place in oven for 30-40 mimutes, until squash is cooked through.
  • Stem and chop onions and collard greens.
  • Heat a large pot on medium high and place avocado oil and onions in the pot. Saute until clear.
  • Add the collard greens and cook down until tender. Add the garlic and stir often.
  • When squash is cooked, remove from oven and flip the pieces over. Spoon out seeds and discard.
  • Spoon out chunks of squash into a high-powered blender. Add the collard mixture.
  • Blend until super creamy. Pour back into pot.
  • Simmer on cooktop until time to eat.
  • Top with dairy-free sour cream. {And if using bacon bits, cook bacon, chop, and sprinkle on top.}
  • Enjoy!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Gluten-Free, nightshade-free, Vegan

Green Smoothie Protein Muffins

When it comes to bulk recipes that are easy to grab-and-go, you can’t get much more balanced than these Green Smoothie Protein Muffins!

Not only do these powerhouse muffins have spinach in them (hence, the green color), but they’re also packed with fiber and a boost of protein to make these perfectly balanced.

green protein smoothie muffins spinach banana recipe anti-inflammatory

Green Smoothie Protein Muffins {anti-inflammatory, vegan, gluten-free}

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Breakfast, Snack
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tsp coconut oil organic, virgin unrefined
  • 2 1/3 cups baby spinach
  • 2 bananas ripe
  • 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder
  • 2 TBSP pitted dates
  • 3/4 cup whole milk organic, or non-dairy unsweetened milk of choice)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups oats rolled or steel-cut or old-fashioned
  • 1 TBSP baking powder

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 350ºF (177ºC) and line a muffin tin with liners. Brush the liners with coconut oil or use silicone cups to prevent the muffins from sticking.
  • In your blender, combine the baby spinach, bananas, protein powder, dates, and milk. Blend until smooth, then add the eggs, oats, and baking powder. Blend again until a batter is formed.
  • Scoop the muffin batter into the cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
  • Let cool and enjoy!

Notes

  • Recommended Protein Powder

    This recipe was developed and tested with a plant-based protein powder. If using a different type of protein powder, results may vary.
  • Leftovers

    Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 days, or freeze for two months or more.
  • Add-Ins

    After blending, stir in chocolate chips, fresh berries, walnuts, or anything else you like to add to banana muffins!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, nightshade-free
green protein smoothie muffins spinach banana recipe anti-inflammatory

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

When it comes to creamy soups for fall and winter, this Turkish Red Lentil Soup is just the thing to warm you up AND fill you up!

The lentils and rice give a ton of fiber and complex carbs while the tomatoes give a boost of vitamin c and lycopene.

And with a vague mint and spicy note, it’s perfect!

*Serve with gluten-free whole-grain crackers and a dollop of organic sour cream (or dairy-free sour cream) to finish it off!

turkish red lentil soup anti-inflammatory

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes canned, drained
  • 5 cups chicken stock vegetable for vegan option
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice or wild or brown
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes optional
  • 1 TBSP mint leaves dried or fresh
  • 1/2 tsp salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion until clear, then add the garlic and cook about 2 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, lentils, rice, tomato paste, paprika, red pepper flakes, and mint. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the lentils and rice are cooked through (this will take approximately 30 minutes).
  • Pour entire pot into a high-powered blender and pulse into a puree.
  • Pour soup back into pot and simmer, adding salt and pepper to taste, until time to serve.
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan
Red lentil soup vegan gluten free healthy easy

8 Ways Daylight Savings Time Affects Your Health and How to Handle It

GET YOUR FREE SLEEP HYGIENE ASSESSMENT + KIT!

Ask any parent about Daylight Savings Time and they’ll groan and roll their eyes. Especially when you have kids, these two times of the year are extremely challenging, to say the least. Sleep schedules are a big deal for parents to get established, so disruptions like these can cause larger stress loads than normal. But many are asking two other very important questions regarding daylight savings time: 1) How does daylight savings time affect your health? and 2) How does it affect your sleep?

To start off with, it can take a week or more for your body to adjust to daylight savings time. In this week, studies have shown 8 or more serious negative affects of daylight savings time:

  1. Sleep cycles being thrown off,
  2. which results in higher stress,
  3. Shifts in eating patterns from hormones being disrupted,
  4. Anxiety,
  5. Depression,
  6. Higher occurrence of heart attack,
  7. More traffic accidents,
  8. And more workplace injuries.

All these add up to some pretty significant shifts in our health that could be avoided. To get a better idea of what this all means and how we should approach it, I asked sleep coach and consultant Sheryl Guloy, PhD for her expert opinion:


Have you heard that there is a discussion on doing away with our annual springing forward to daylight savings time (DST) and falling back to standard time? About a month or so ago, all of this talk reached my neck of the woods, up North…way up to and past the Canadian border, with a beeline to Montreal. The idea of doing away with this time change goes far beyond my city and probably extends or will extend to yours.  In fact, this discussion is international in scope and proposals to end this practice is currently ongoing across North America and Europe. It is a hot topic in several states, such as Massachusetts, Washington, Tennessee, and Texas.

While it may seem normal for us to spring forward and to fall back every year, toggling our sleep between standard time and daylight savings time, research on the effects of springing forward reveals just how detrimental to health one hour of sleep loss can be. In Autumn, however, falling back to standard time has been found to result in more positive gains as people’s sleep becomes better (keep this tidbit of information in mind because there’ll be more on this later). Taken altogether, sleep experts, including myself, believe that keeping time consistent throughout the year is best for our health. 

Should Daylight Savings Time be Abolished?

The first reason for keeping our time consistent has to do with sleep loss, which we know negatively affects health, mental health, and performance. When springing forward in springtime, our body misses out on an hour of sleep. The second reason is that our bodies run on a biological clock, entrained to the 24-hour day. It’s from this relationship to the day’s cycle that the biological clock gets its formal name, circadian rhythm.  In particular, we have circa, meaning around or approximately, and dies, meaning day, in Latin. The biological clock influences when we become sleepy or become hungry. Specifically, it plays a role in metabolic function and homeostasis as well as in immune response, recovery from mental and physical fatigue, emotional regulation, learning and creativity, and memory consolidation. 

Keeping your circadian rhythm consistent is important for the regulation of all of these functions. Research on the effects of switching from standard to daylight savings time has revealed a spike in strokes, heart attacks, and car accidents soon after springing forward. Consequently, policymakers have begun holding discussions on whether the practice of switching between standard and daylight savings times should be abolished, with some places having already chosen to end the practice. 

Now, while doing away with the time change is something that is applauded by many researchers and sleep experts, the concern that has arisen in some areas where this policy change is being contemplated has to do with which time would become the default. In particular, the concern has to do with whether an area chooses to select daylight savings time as the “new” standard time. 

Why does it matter whether or not we choose daylight savings time?

Well, it matters because our circadian rhythm takes cues from our environment to keep it on track, such as sunlight; temperature change; and eating schedules; among other things. So, this means that our environment and lifestyle affect our biological clock and, consequently, sleep. What happens is that even though we may believe that we should eventually adjust to the time change, the negative effects of springing forward can last throughout the period of daylight savings time for some people.

How the body reacts to daylight savings time

Like I mentioned, not only do our bodies like consistency, but the circadian rhythm is tied to the day, which means that external cues such as daylight and temperature play a role in its regulation. Now, imagine what happens to night owls, for instance, who are already genetically predisposed to going to bed later and are already at greater risk of experiencing sleep deprivation. Imagine what happens to them in the summer when they are exposed to brighter light later in the evening. 

Essentially, sunnier evenings delay the circadian rhythm and, hence, the time that people actually fall asleep. Yet, most people still have to wake up at the same time for work throughout the DST period. It’s pretty easy to see how the risk of experiencing sleep loss increases. Right? Remember that night owls will not be the only ones affected. Everyone will be affected but to varying degrees. 

Okay, let’s make this even more concrete. What would you expect to happen if we kept standard time versus if we kept savings time? 

First, let’s assume a regular 9-to-5 work week, regardless of the time of the year (not factoring in any COVID-19 effects on your work schedule, like working from home). Also, let’s say that you get 7 hours of sleep every night, falling asleep at 11:00 pm and waking up at 6:00 am. 

If daylight savings time becomes the new “standard”, how would cities be affected?

To help you see what would happen in very real terms, I’ve created Table 1 to show the effect on sunrise and sunset times in cities across North America, with Houston, Texas, being at the most southerly location, and Edmonton, Alberta, up here in Canada, being at the most northerly location. 

Table 1. Standard Time Versus Daylight Savings Time (Sunset/ Sunrise)

In Table 1, I’ve included the actual recorded times for June 21, 2019 in daylight savings time. Notice how late the sun sets in the summertime. This translates into delayed bedtimes because a significant number of people will find it more challenging to fall asleep at earlier times. While the sun sets pretty late in Houston, at 8:25 pm, notice when the sun sets in Seattle and Edmonton. Imagine what it would be like if the sun were to set at around 9:10 pm or 10:07 pm where you live. Personally, I know exactly what it’s like because I used to spend quite some time in Alberta. It feels like it’s only around 5:30 pm or 6:00 pm when it is, in fact, already 9:00 pm at night. No wonder, then, that many do suffer from sleep loss throughout the DST period.

How about during wintertime? What would happen if daylight savings time were to become the “new” standard time? Well, first of all, notice how late the sun would rise in Houston. Basically, the sun’s rays would only begin to appear at around 8:12 am. Now, look at the other cities, where the sun will rise even later. Imagine what it would be like to be in Seattle, where the sun would only rise at 8:54 am. In Edmonton, it would only rise at 9:48 am; that’s only 12 minutes shy of 10:00 am…or mid-morning! Wow. The thing is that bright light in the morning plays a critical role in keeping the circadian rhythm from being delayed too much at night, which is especially important in helping night owls keep their sleep-wake times aligned with the regular 9-to-5 hours that they’ll still be expected to keep.

These examples bring to light some conditions that make daylight savings time problematic if it were to be selected as the default time. Policymakers are essentially proposing that DST be selected as the default when it has been shown to contribute to health, performance, and safety concerns. Unfortunately, daylight savings time is being proposed as the new standard in states like Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. Meanwhile, in Canada, cities like Toronto are also pushing for daylight savings time. In Texas, however, discussions seem to be veering toward keeping standard time as the default, which I believe would be the wiser and healthier choice. 

Sheryl Guloy, PhD, is sleep coach/ consultant, researcher, and educator. Her interest in sleep began with her own sleep troubles and her realization that she is a true night owl. She co-founded a sleep initiative, Somnolence+, through which she aims to make sure that more people know about their own sleep and have strategies and tools to help them sleep well. 

You can find her blog at: www.sleepwellblog.org

Or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/sleepwellpage

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The Mental Load Women Take on That’s Creating Resentment with Husbands

Tips and checklist for how to talk to your husband (or wife) to ease the stress and replace resentment of the female mental load women inevitably take on in your household.

One of the most frustrating arguments I can have with my husband revolves around this topic. Not because I feel it’s taboo, or because I believe the whole ‘women’s chores’ BS (I grew up in the South where unbelievably demeaning attitudes involving gender inequality in household work, among other things, still exist heavily.) I think it’s because I could never quite put my finger on what “it” was for a long time.

One of our biggest blowups involved going to a kids birthday party one Saturday. I am always expected to be the one who knows the day and time, has bought the gift, gift bag, and card, and then prepped everyone for the party, in addition to picking outfits, making the kids get dressed, and then doing hair for 4 females in the house. That doesn’t count me getting myself ready either. And one day I’d had enough.

My husband, after lounging on the bed watching TV during the whole ordeal of us getting ready without his help, couldn’t understand why I was fuming when he didn’t remember to grab the darn gift on his way out the door. And I lost it. (Please know that I have a short fuse, and up to this point I had exercised extreme patience with this whole situation…or maybe not patience, but holding my sh!t together, minimum.)

What is *The* mental load for women

I had to explain that this wasn’t an isolated occurrence. This kind of thing happened on a daily basis with literally any family or household thing going on. I realize I’m a SAHM, but when he honestly doesn’t even put a single thought into anything regarding the kids or family, that’s where I’d drawn my line. And I just could not, for the life of me, put my finger on what the real issue was.

He’s repeatedly said to me, ‘Tell me what to do and I’ll do it!’ So from the outside, it should look like he’s totally innocent and I’m the nastiest Momzilla that ever lived. (Or maybe Wifezilla.) But what had been festering for years finally made perfect sense when another mom with the same issue gave it a name: The Female Mental Load women take on in nearly every household.

It was the mental load.

The overbearing, heavy, unmovable mental load of moms everywhere.

The mental load women take on of having to remember everything, coordinate everything, plan everything, buy everything, assemble everything, and do everything–which smothers me with the stress of it all. It was a lack of initiative from him in any one single part of all those things. He didn’t want to have to think about anything. So he left it all to me.

I already ran the household by myself, especially since he’s gone for work so much. That means I’m already a single parent the majority of the time. So I had that plus the mental load of all of it. All to myself.

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Guilt steps in…as always

For a while I felt guilty; I mean, I am the one staying home instead of working outside the home. But one day I snapped. Ya know, the birthday party day. Yes I stay home with the kids, I’m not at a job outside the home. But I thought back to when we both worked full time. And it finally dawned on me… things were the same way back then.

And I don’t think it’s an on-purpose thing for him (or any male partner.) It’s just, for one–we think differently than men. But I think a little of it is that they don’t want to have to think about anything. (It is for my husband anyway.)

And this happens in soooo many households even though we’re supposed to have evolved from this whole ‘traditional’ attitude of the woman doing everything involved with the kids and household. That whole gender inequality in household work thing. Many friends have told me they feel it’s come from how their husbands were raised. Meaning: we have to be very direct and communicate the fact that they’re not guests in the household (nor are they king of the 7 realms that sits on the iron throne.) They’re our partners. Plain and simple. A partner contributes to running and maintaining the household and children you BOTH have.

So in all this hefty load-bearing, we’ve come to use these 4 ways to work through the communication of the whole issue, to help the load get split more evenly and, hopefully, relieve some of the resentment from the mental load I’d taken on by myself for far too long.

Open a conversation about it

One of the first things I always have to remember in this is to NOT start our conversation while in attack mode. Using ‘I feel’ statements to communicate the burden you have makes a huuuuge difference. Maybe even make a list to give examples. And reiterate that he is one of two parents here, and half of a couple.

Let him know how much you feel this is on you. Maybe even talk about how this kind of thing puts you in a bad mood, stresses you out, and makes sexy time feel so-NOT-sexy. (It does for me anyhow!) Open up about your feelings and let him know that you shouldn’t have this entire load to yourself.

Then make a list of all the things you handle and anything he handles, then split it up. Be very clear that you will each be responsible for those things without the other’s help unless necessary.

The whole point is for you to not have to remind + direct when it’s time to do each thing.

Be calm and listen to both sides regarding the mental load (BOTH of you)

Lord help me this one was hard. I felt like this was so one-sided forever that the years of resentment and trying to figure out how to talk to my husband about the mental load when I couldn’t even define it created this huge storm in me that was a Cat 3 hurricane bout to level our marriage.

But through the stack of books I’ve read and therapy (yes go do this even when you don’t ‘think’ you’re having problems!) I’ve been able to learn the skill of stepping back and putting myself in his shoes for the sake of seeing the other side to be able to put my own resentment to rest. It’s hard. It’s really freaking hard. But it falls in line with the whole ‘forgive someone else for YOU not them’ mentality. This is for your sake.

The other side of the coin is that he has to be able to also be calm and step back himself (or herself) and see your side as well. That’s the whole point of this, and if you don’t have a receptive partner, you’re wasting your breath. So I won’t lie and say this will be easy. It may take extra steps to get into the correct listening mode for both of you.

Tips for collaboration

Make sure you’re planning ahead, first and foremost. It’s super simple to either set a timer, or create a system for something. For example, if his new responsibility is to do one load of laundry a day, ask him to set a timer on his phone, or ask that he throws it in while dinner is going.

Reminders are always going to be your friend (well, actually his since you already remember this stuff.) But using things like lists, sticky notes, and reminders on phones are always really helpful.

Make sure you’re dividing things up by either skill level, or what one or the other likes to do. My husband actually really likes to cook. So when he’s home–I don’t have to cook! 🎉🙌 I don’t mind doing floors, so I sweep and vacuum. (Also, we delegate stuff to the kids as well, and they have chores. If your kids are older, make sure they’re doing their parts, too–sometimes we forget how capable our kids actually are!)

Reversing roles

Don’t feel like specific tasks need to go to one or the other based on gender. My husband likes mowing the yard, but I used to do it as a teen at my dad’s house, and actually loved the peace and quiet. And what mom couldn’t use that, right? 😂 So I’m absolutely not opposed to doing the yard in lieu of him taking something I do inside.

I also got a big wakeup call on this after my brother got married and had their first kid. His wife was in the Navy, and he was a ‘military mom’ for years because she was out of the country on tour. Since her being back for months at a time, he’s never handed over the roles he started out with. He still takes the kids to school and daycare, picks them up, and does all afterschool activities. They both work full-time. It’s actually been refreshing to see him in that role–especially since we both grew up in a traditional, patriarchal community. Honestly it makes my heart smile. 😍

Learn to let go

If you have a real problem with things getting done a certain way because you’ve always done it that way… you’re gonna have to just let some things go. Trusting that it’ll get done–even if it’s not exactly how you do it–is gonna be huge in letting some stress fall away from your shoulders.

If it’s a matter of it being done properly (either by your partner or your kid), that’s a different animal. Take some time to teach how it’s done correctly, whether it’s the hubby or a kid, then move on.

The biggest takeaway here is to understand that your house doesn’t have to look like a Pottery Barn catalog all the time. People actually live in it. So if the tasks that have been handed out don’t get done the minute you think they should, you’re gonna have just step back a little. Leave the load on the other person. That’s why you handed it over in the first place, right?

How’s your female mental load, women friends? Have you had this discussion in your household? How did you go about splitting it up? (Let me know in the comments!)

Need more relaxation and less stress in your life?

Check out the TRUEWell hub for stress management HERE.

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Lavender Lullaby Mocktail

By far one of the coolest things to trend in the last couple years is the love of mocktails–hence special months like Sober October and Dry January–so that we can enjoy special treats without the guilt like this sleep-inducing Lavender Lullaby Mocktail.

Don’t be intimidated by the lavender… this is just one of many new types of drinks and mixers more crafty than our Boonesfarm predecessors. 😁

The lavender in this craft lavender mocktail isn’t overwhelming; but it is known to induce calmness and help some sleep. Which makes it the perfect post-dinner treat.

**One thing I will caution: Not all lavender sodas are sugar-free, EVEN if they say ‘dry’!! Check the label to ensure you’re getting sugar-free to keep your mocktail anti-inflammatory, low-carb, and keto!

Lavender Lullaby Mocktail

The lavender in this craft lavender mocktail isn't overwhelming but is known to induce calmness and help some sleep. Which makes it the perfect post-dinner treat.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1 bottle dry lavender soda *Make sure it's 'diet' or 'sugar-free'!
  • 2-3 basil leaves muddled
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice fresh is best
  • 2 drops liquid stevia or use 1-2 tsp erythritol (Swerve brand is great)

Instructions
 

  • Fill a highball glass with ice.
  • Place muddled basil in glass.
  • Pour in lemon juice and drops of stevia (or other sweetener).
  • Fill the glass with lavendar soda.
  • Garnish with basil if you need more fragrance. Enjoy!
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Sugar-Free, Vegan

Cozy Keto Pumpkin Muffins

When it’s fall (ya’ll) [sorry-had to be done by a Southerner such as myself] 😆 everybody goes bonkers for pumpkin spice, and these keto pumpkin muffins should definitely be in your saved + often-used recipe collection. And I get it–it’s (hopefully where you live) starting to cool down, and that crisp snuggly feeling should be crankin’ up!

The only thing is… when we think of ‘cozy’ things, it usually veers in dramatically different directions: Either heavier soups and stews (savory), or warm, sweet breads (sweets direction).

Lucky for you, I’ve got the sweet covered with a fiber-filled, pumpkin-spice loaded muffin that is sugar-free, and also has the added benefit of being a great after-dinner snack (if you add on the pumpkin seeds–they contain melatonin. 😉)

Now, I know some of us like stevia, some prefer erythritol, some like monk-fruit, and on and on. So I put 2 options in the directions in case you veer either way, because that one option will determine baking time.

So warm up some unsweetened coconut (or almond) milk and enjoy! 🍂

Cozy Keto Pumpkin Muffins

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 27 mins
Total Time 42 mins
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Servings 6 muffins
Calories 156 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 eggs large
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 TBSP coconut oil melted
  • 1 tsp stevia liquid OR 1/3 cup erythritol (Swerve brand works great)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 TBSP coconut flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup pepitas, for topping (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Line your muffin tin with liners (paper tend to stick unless you spray with oil).
  • Whisk together eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, stevia (or erythritol), coconut oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the coconut flour, salt, and baking powder. Then whisk into the pumpkin batter.
  • Evenly divide the mixture in the 6-muffin tin cups.
  • Bake 22-25 minutes (using stevia as the sweetener), or (27-29 minutes using erythritol as the sweetener).
  • Muffins are ready when a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Pop muffins onto a towel or cooling rack, and let them cool completely for optimal fluffy texture.
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Sugar-Free

Cucumber Cherry Lime Mocktail

What a better way to celebrate summer than to use in-season ingredients that have the bonus of giving us better sleep — like this Cucumber Cherry Lime Mocktail!

Although this craft mocktail contains cherry juice, which is essentially straight fructose, the cucumber’s fiber will help blunt the blood-sugar spike. Also, tart cherry juice has mega phyto-nutrients and antioxidants!

{If you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, please be smart about consuming drinks with fruit juice. This is technically sugar free, but that only means ‘added sugars’. The fruit juice still contains fructose!}

Cucumber Cherry Lime Mocktail

Prep Time 7 mins
Total Time 7 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1/3 cup cucumber peeled and chunked
  • 1/8 cup tart cherry juice Montmorency cherry juice
  • 1/8 cup lime juice fresh is best
  • 4 oz seltzer water plain, unflavored

Instructions
 

  • In high-powered blender cup, place cucumber chunks, cherry juice, and lime juice.
  • Pulse 20-30 seconds until completely smooth.
  • Pour into glass over ice cubes.
  • Fill with seltzer water and serve.
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan

The 15+ Amazing Best Kitchen Tools for Meal Prep that I Use Every Week

These are the best kitchen tools for meal prep that I use and LOVE in my household and recommend to others!

*As an affiliate, I may receive a small portion of proceeds of any items you buy through these links, at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend products I know, use, and love.

Meal prep isn’t just a trend, it’s really a revolution of efficiency. But truthfully, it gets even more efficient when you have the proper and best kitchen tools for meal prep.

As a nutrition specialist and health coach, some of the first things I discuss with clients are the roadblocks to making healthy eating happen, whether it’s general healthy foods or sticking to a dietary style for weight loss or food intolerance. Lack of time is usually the biggest reason named, but it doesn’t have to be (which is what I work through with clients).

My philosophy is to always merge healthy + efficient to make an anti-inflammatory lifestyle doable on the daily.

Here are the best kitchen tools for meal prep that I feel are the most efficient in their own right to make meal prep happen with the least amount of frustration.

best kitchen tools for meal prep

Ninja all-in-one system

This Ninja system has everything you need to chop, dice, spiralize, blend, cream, and so much more! It comes with a bullet-sized smoothie cup, large blender, crazy-sharp blades that are absolutely amazing, a food processor bowl for chopping and ricing, and the smaller attachment for grating and spiralizing. It also includes a dough blade! This system eliminates the need for 3 different appliances, and also has preset functions so you can push the button and walk away while it does its thing!

Instant pot 8-quart 9-in-1

This larger 8-quart Instant Pot has the size to cook larger or smaller amounts, and eliminates the need for a separate slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, saute pan, and more! You can sear meat right in the pot before setting to slow cooker, you can use as a pressure cooker and even cook meats that came straight from the freezer (anyone forget to thaw something for dinner??), and it has settings for different types of meats, rice, eggs, yogurt, potatoes, and so much more. It seriously eliminates the need for multiple different cooking devices! It even has a function for sterilizing! (Baby toys or bottles, anyone?) My feeling, especially if you have a lack of space, is that the best kitchen tools for meal prep can multi-task.

(I like the larger size because it can fit so much more or cook less.) And if you really wanna get high-tech crazy, there’s even a “Smart Wifi” model!

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

The KitchenAid stand mixer is another amazing all-in-one. It obviously mixes hands-free, but it comes with dough hook attachment AND whisk attachment. But it also has a MILLION AND ONE add-ons! For example, meat grinder, spiralizer, pasta maker, juicer…. honestly the list goes on! The Aqua Sky color is the most popular, but check out the link below to explore all color options!

Silmat set

Ok, this may sound crazy, but this Silmat is amazing and eliminates the use of oil sprays or coatings when baking! I love that I have the option of cooking oil-free and know that it won’t stick! I also love that this set has multiple sizes since not all baking sheets are the same size. These can be used in baking sheets (whether baking, cooking, or roasting) or on the countertop for rolling out doughs WITHOUT the use of extra flour! The best kitchen tools for meal prep will also help eliminate extra ‘stuff’ you have might otherwise have to buy, like parchment paper, oil, flour, etc.

Baggie Stand holders

Baggie stands are something I never knew I needed until I used them. Like something in my head told me this would be incredibly helpful, but having them makes my life so much easier when I meal prep!! (Ever have a biggie fall over while pouring liquid in? 😭

Yeah…no bueno.) With these baggie stands– PROBLEM SOLVED!

Reusable Storage Bags

If you’re a serial MEAL PREPPER like I am, or even WANT TO BE— these reusable storage bags ARE FOR YOU! I use a TON of baggies in meal prep!! We also send berries, chips, granola, etc in baggies for the kids to school because we either make our own stuff, or buy the large bag and divide for cheaper snacks. These reusable bags eliminate the overwhelming amount of plastic being thrown away, but also the overwhelming amount of baggies I’m buying every month!

Glass Food Storage Containers

Whether you do weekly meal prep or not, getting rid of plastic food storage containers is a MAJOR upgrade for your health! I love these glass storage containers because they’re dishwasher safe, microwave safe, oven safe, and even freezer safe! They’re extremely versatile! Perfect for meal prep. Perfect for leftovers. Without the icky BPA. Also, they don’t melt in the dishwasher. All the plastic meal prep containers you can buy will eventually lose their shapes (sometimes sooner, depending on the water temperature in your dishwasher). The glass meal prep containers are good to go forever.

Silicone Muffin Pans

Silicone muffin pans are a dream for bakers and meal preppers alike! No more rusty pans. No more muffin papers. No more sticking or using non-stick sprays. Oh yeah, and no more washing silicone muffin wrappers individually!!​ HUGE time saver for me!! (Remember: healthy + efficient!)

Saute Pans + Skillet

In case you’re been under a rock the last decade, you already know the reason Teflon isn’t normally used on skillets any more. And although that non-stick surface was hella useful, it’s crazy toxic. Next best non-stick thing? Ceramic-coating! (If you have an induction cooktop, make sure to confirm the cookware works on it before purchasing!)

Enamel Coated Cookware

If you love the versatility of being able to go from cooktop to oven, or even fridge to cooktop or oven, then enamel coated cookware is the way to go! The only ‘con’ I have to these is that they are very heavy because they’re cast-iron on the inside, and that means my kiddos can’t feasibly handle them, and also it means it’s nearly impossible to hold the skillets at an angle to pour contents out. Otherwise, these pieces should last for years (and many high-end brands like Le Creuset should last a lifetime). Plus you can get them in a ton of really preeeetty colors! 🌈

Good Knives

The best kitchen tools for meal prep will always include a quality set of sharp knives. A good sharp set of knives can mean the difference between beautifully and quickly sliced foods and an urgent trip to the ER. Invest in some really good knives!! Better knives cost more, but they last longer and are more durable. Plus if they get dull, you can sharpen them!

Mixing Bowls

This may sound like silly advice, but coming from someone who VALUES minimalism these days, a really GOOD, DURABLE, POURABLE, and STACKABLE set of mixing bowls that only takes up a SINGLE shelf in my kitchen is a mega win!! 🏅

Not to mention that this specific set has graters and a slicer you can attach right on top of the bowl!!

Proper Labeling Tools #1: Sharpies

When doing meal prep, the gold standard for labeling baggies is the good ole’ Sharpie. And while I LOVE me some colored Sharpies, unfortunately teal and lighter colors just won’t cut it. Use BLACK, DARK BLUE, PURPLE, or RED.

Proper Labeling Tools #2: Dry Erase Markers

Guess what—DRY ERASE markers aren’t ONLY for a dry erase board!! They’re PERFECT for labeling FOOD CONTAINERS when you’re meal prepping or have leftovers!! 🤩

THESE dry erase markers are my favorite, because they have a fine tip, are black (same importance as the Sharpie situation), and they have a magnet, so you can keep it on the side of the fridge for easy access when labeling leftover containers! *And a tip–although you may be super tempted to use the wet-erase version (usually Vis-a-Vis brand), DON’T! If any moisture gets on the container, the words will smear right off onto your hands and then take 17 days to get off… speaking from experience.)

Meal Prep Cutting Board

Ok, so I’ve saved the BEST for last. I never realized how much of a pain it was cutting up tons of veggies and fruits for meal prep until I started. This is my FAVORITE thing ever! A cutting board with containers for what you’ve chopped under it! Eeeekkk! There are a couple of other options for meal prep cutting boards, but this one is by far my favorite!

So there ya have it! My list of the 15 best kitchen tools for meal prep! Keep in mind it’s not a dire situation if you don’t have these or can’t afford them right now. They simply make it easier to meal prep.

Got any more suggestions? Let’s hear them in the comments below!

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best kitchen tools for meal prep

Cherry Sour Mule Mocktail

An amazing way to celebrate cooler weather and earlier nigh-time hours is to combine tart cherry (for its sleep-inducing properties) with a Moscow mule to make this delectable Cherry Sour Mule Mocktail.

Although this mocktail is technically sugar-free, it does have tart cherry juice in it, which is basically straight fructose. Tart cherry juice does have less sugar than other cherries, so pay attention to the type you’re buying (it will say Montmorency cherry juice).

So if you’re able to have a bit of sugar and need a boost in sleep, this Cherry Sour Mule Mocktail could be the perfect warm-weather after-dinner beverage!

cherry sour mule mocktail

Cherry Sour Mule Mocktail

Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1/3 cup tart cherry juice Montmorency cherry juice
  • 1/4 cup lime juice fresh is best
  • 1 can diet ginger beer Zevia Mixers is a great brand
  • 1 sprig mint for garnish + aroma

Instructions
 

  • Place large ice cube or ball in a copper mug.
  • Pour lime juice and cherry juice over ice.
  • Fill with diet ginger beer.
  • Garnish with mint + enjoy!
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan

Tart Cherry Almond Mocktail

If you’re searching for a way to use tart cherry to improve your sleep, look no further than this Tart Cherry Almond Mocktail! The sweet almond and tart cherry mesh together beautifully and give a delicious treat to send you off to dreamland.

Tart cherries have been shown to boost sleep through melatonin content and possibly the high amounts of antioxidants. They also have a lower sugar content than other cherries.

So while keeping your blood sugar down is a concern for supporting better sleep (and is necessary for diabetes and inflammatory conditions), this mocktail may still be a viable option, even with the straight tart cherry juice.

Although alcohol can always be added to mocktails to make a full-on cocktail, I don’t advise doing it with this recipe. The recipe-tester (that would be me) advised that it will turn this delicious treat of a beverage into a large, full glass of cough-syrup flavor. No thank you.

Instead, enjoy this tart cherry mocktail treat alcohol-free after or during dinner to prep you for bedtime!

tart cherry mocktail

Tart Cherry Almond Mocktail

Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1/3 cup sugar-free cream soda (diet or Zevia brand)
  • 1/3 cup tart cherry juice Montmorency
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 sprig mint optional

Instructions
 

  • Place ice cube/s in a short tumbler.
  • Pour almond extract first, then tart cherry juice, and top it with the diet cream soda.
  • Add a sprig of mint for garnish.

Notes

**I don’t recommend converting this to a full-on cocktail by adding alcohol– it turns the drink into cough-syrup flavor.
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Vegan

The Effects of Forest Bathing That Will Blow Your Mind as a Mom

How Moms Can Use Forest Bathing for Stress Management + Anxiety Relief

What is Forest Bathing?

Ok, I usually don’t subscribe to the latest ‘trend’ when it comes to health, UNLESS it’s super science-backed + super cool, so when I first heard the term ‘forest bathing’, I immediately thought you sought out a lake in a forest to actually bathe. (Ew.) This, however…THIS–is so much better than a weird bath in a questionable lake with God-knows-what nipping at your body.

Forest Bathing is actually a practice (sometimes referred to as shinrin-yoku) where you immerse yourself in a forest (specifically trees) and just….be. You basically empty your mind and use your senses to be very mindful of the things around you and what you’re experiencing right then. It’s sort of like meditation, but where your eyes are open and you’re focusing on the nature that surrounds you.

“Ok-so why the heck would I bother seeking out a forest to do this, then?”, you may be asking…. and since I advocate merging healthy + efficient for doable daily healthy practices, you may also be asking how in the world forest bathing would be efficient. The long and short of it is that taking purposeful breaks during your day boosts your patience, creativity, and productivity. So that, combined with all the health benefits, is where the magic ✨of forest bathing comes from.

how to do forest bathing and the benefits of forest bathing near me

What are the Benefits of Forest Bathing?

The things that Forest Bathing do to your body, mind, and soul are absolutely incredible. It invokes calm and peace, sure–but it actually does all these physiological things to your body that are crazy therapeutic! Like INCREASED: parasympathetic nervous activity, positive feelings and feelings of well being, and even a boost in the immune system from the essential oils in the trees and plants that are emitted to protect themselves from germs and bugs! And don’t forget the DECREASED stuff, like: lowered cortisol levels, lowered pulse, lessened feelings of depression and negative feelings,   and even stress and hostility!

Honestly, the benefits are overwhelming–and totally worth it. And–this is the best part–it’s not just for adults. Kids are totally benefited just as much–especially kids with ADHD! This study determined that as little as a 20-minute visit to a nature setting could increase attention performance in kids with attention deficits. In fact, they compared the results to being as effective as recent formulations of ADHD drugs that fall under the brand names Concerta, Daytrana, Methylin, Ritalin, and Aptensio. That’s pretty incredible!!

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What is a Nature Bath?

This is just a matter of semantics, as a nature bath is relaxing in nature or a forest atmosphere, the same as a forest bath.

How do you Take a Forest Bath?

Here’s how to take a nature bath or forest bath (with or without kiddos).

Step 1: Forest Bathing Near Me

At the expense of being Captain Obvious, first thing is to actually find a forest. If you already know of one near you, great! You’re on to step 2A or 2B. If not, there are a few resources online to help you locate one. The first is Discover the Forest. This site will locate a forest within a given radius in miles, based on your zip code. It also has a few other pretty cool pages, like the Discover the Urban Forest button. It’ll take you to some cool activities you can do in the forest with kids….which we’ll get to in a minute.

The second resource is the National Forest Locator Map. This option lets you see which national forests are around you, and then has the link to visit each forest’s web page.

The third resource is to just Google: ‘National Forest Near Me’ or even try ‘forest bathing near me’. Just doing this alone pulled up 3 separate hiking trails near my home within 7 miles.

And the fourth option is to find the outdoorsiest person you know and ask them! Seriously–friends/family/coworkers that camp, hike, or trail ride will absolutely know the best and/or closest forests to you.

Step 2A: How to do Forest Bathing Alone

Just FYI, I’m not about to suggest leaving your phone at home for this one. Way too many people have gotten lost in the woods for me to think that’s a good idea. However, I am ordering you to turn the ringer off, and the vibration off. And any notifications, period. Also, I know you want to log these steps on your fitness tracker. But it’s best to actually leave that thing at home. Besides, most have apps that sync with your fitness tracker will track you via GPS anyhow. Just set that to start when you get to the forest and it should sync. Bottom line: NO ELECTRONICS.

What you SHOULD do, however, is get into a purposeful mindset about getting out into nature, in the quiet, away from everything. A cool practice I read about is finding a rock at the edge of the forest, telling it all your worries, then tossing it onto the ground. Your worries should stay with the rock. And when you come back out, pick the worries back up if you want. (Undoubtedly nobody does.)

Your only goal in the forest should be to take note of the things around you. Use your senses. What do you see? Hear? Smell? What do the leaves feel like? (Please look up what poison ivy looks like, like a responsible human being with common sense does, before you go. Coz looking it up on your phone is NOT allowed, Cheater!!)

Step 2B: How to do forest bathing WITH Kids

Obviously it’s going to be a completely different experience to forest bathe with your kids. First you should probably lay down some ground rules. Kids also need explanations for things–otherwise how do they learn?? Explain what this is for–getting in touch with nature, separating from electronics for a healthy mind break, a nice relaxation period to recharge.

Then tell them the rules: no electronics, no running, no screaming, no fighting, hands to yourself. Calm. You can touch things. But think about the things you’re seeing, the things you smell, the way those things feel in your hands. Take it all in and stop to breathe deeply with eyes closed every few minutes just to smell and hear.

Remember that there’s always the chance that the kiddos will go nuts about being in nature instead of cooped up inside in the first place. Some kids need to get all that giddiness out of their systems before they can really get into the mode of just being present.

If you feel your kiddos fall into that category, try the activity sheets from the Discover the Forest site. Print them out and let them do the activities the first few times you take them out into the forest. Then try actual forest bathing after that.

If you go out and they’re calm, but say they’re bored, even after trying a time or two, maybe let them take a book out and read, or even journal or draw. Just being in nature will give many of the benefits of forest bathing while keeping their mind going without the stimulation of electronics. Here are some journals available for books he or she has read, as well as several journals for adventures, bucket lists, and even bird watching!

And let me know how your experience was in the comments below!

Know someone who could use the health benefits of forest bathing? SHARE this post!

the benefits and how to do forest bathing

How Blue Light Affects Sleep and What You Should Be Doing About It Tonight

The many direct and indirect ways of how blue light affects sleep every night.

*This post may contain affiliate links, which gives me a portion of the proceeds if you purchase something at no additional cost to you. However, I only recommend things I trust, believe in, or actually use and love.

Oh, what heaven it is to finally, finally get all the kids down for bed, have the kitchen cleaned, me showered, and have some time to breathe in my super soft jammies and warm bed! I love being able to sink down and either watch a good show to wind down or catch up on what my friends and fam are up to on FB or Insta for a few minutes after my bedtime routine.

how blue light affects sleep

The problem I didn’t realize with the TV and phone scrolling is that once you start….it’s very hard to stop. I mean, obviously FB is very good in figuring out how to make it ‘addictive’, as is Pinterest or Insta! But that’s not the only problem. You don’t feel like you need to go sleep at that point because of this little pesky thing in your electronics called blue lights and how the blue lights affect sleep.

And make no mistake, blue light can affect not just your sleep, but also can indirectly start a whole cycle of other problems! Since sleep is so incredibly important for our body and brains to function, this is becoming a huge problem. Sleep can affect our hunger hormones, our energy levels, and even make us feel foggy and lethargic all day if we don’t get quality and enough sleep. My philosophy is to always merge healthy + efficient to make health magic happen ✨. And since bad sleep can be counterproductive to so many of our other health efforts, it’s one of the highest things on my list for clients to fix up front.

Where Blue Light Comes From

Blue light is emitted from pretty much all your electronics with a screen: TV, phone, tablets, game systems, computer monitors. But it also comes from our LED lighting. The thing is, blue light is in sunlight, which we need–but when it’s an isolated short-waved light like we’ve produced in our electronics and the LED lights we fill our homes with, it becomes a different issue. Especially when we’ve got it blaring in our faces all day and night.

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Does Blue Light Actually Affect Sleep?

The answer is yes–blue light does actually affect sleep. The direct effects of blue light are eye strain and disruption in melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone you produce to get to sleep. But the eye strain part is also important. Think about how many people have headaches through the day that are just attributed to ‘sitting at a desk’ or ‘tech neck’. A good portion of this can be traced back to the actual blue light they’re inundated with all day and into the night. Neck pain can cause poor sleep as well.

How Blue Light Affects Sleep Indirectly

How blue light affects sleep indirectly become more tricky. But based on the direct effects, they come in 2 parts: the hormone issue, and the eye strain issue.

1-Hormones— Melatonin is a hormone, and your body kicks the production of it up around 2pm at the same time cortisol should be gradually getting lower. This works in harmony so that by bedtime you’re sleepy with cortisol very low (it gives you energy when it’s high.) But when blue lights are kicking it down when the sun goes down outside, we have a problem. The blue light melatonin connection is why it’s so hard to go to sleep when you’re scrolling on your phone or just. can’t. stop. watching that fave show you’ve been binging.

When you disrupt that melatonin production, you’re disrupting other hormones, too. It’s pretty much jacking with your circadian rhythm, and keep this in mind: 2 OTHER hormones are at play while you sleep called ghrelin and leptin. These 2 hormones tell your body whether you have enough energy or not. If you’re not getting enough sleep, and the melatonin is out of whack, these 2 hormones will also be out of whack.

Why does this matter? Well, have you noticed if you’ve only had a couple of hours of sleep how hungry you are all day? Or that you crave carbs all the time? This is because those 2 hormones are telling your body you need more energy. And when you eat more, especially simple carbs (including sugar), what happens? Yep–you gain and store more fat. (Booo!!)

2–Eye strain— This can quickly develop into greater problems because those blue lights are shorter waves and actually penetrate your eye all the way to the light-sensitive cells in the retina. This can actually increase the risk of macular degeneration! I don’t know about you, but I already have eye issues. I was SEVERELY nearsighted until I had LASIK. And it was 25 years of misery with contacts. I have no intention of making things bad again!!

And also, that eye strain can–again–contribute to headaches. How much pain medicine are you downing and filtering through your kidneys and liver because of that headache every day/ few days?

How to Be Strategic with Blue Light

One of the best ways to get around this blue light conundrum in our age of digital and tech gadgets is to start setting a ‘curfew’ for the electronics. Our household has a rule of none from dinnertime on. And if the hubby and I want to watch TV after the kids are in bed, we have blue-light-blocking glasses that I snagged off Amazon. (Link below if you’re interested.)

There are also some apps you can use on your computer screen and android or iPhone that will reduce the blue light and put out a warmer tone.

Also, you can get blue-light-blocking screen protectors now for your iPhone or computer screen like these (genius) ones:

But my favorite (because they send you a little blue light and card to test it) are the glasses. They’re just like regular glasses–clear–but they block that light for you, which you can check out HERE.

Bottom line is that we really need to be more vigilant in keeping the blue lights out in the evenings.

How about your household? Do you have a ‘tech curfew’? Have you experienced the effects of blue lights with headaches or sleep disruptions? Let me know in the comments!

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how blue light affects sleep

Fall Inspired Homemade Spa Recipes to Transition Your Skin + Hair into Autumn With a Glow

Fall-inspired homemade spa recipes are by FAR one of the best ways for Mama to transition from summer into fall with one of my most fave smells of all time: pumpkin! If it smells like fall, Mama’s happy! So what’s the big transition? Transforming that dried out summer skin from the sun, sand, and chlorine to smooth, supple, and glowy skin!

What a better way to practice some stress management and self care when you’re strapped for cash, don’t have a babysitter, or ya know… quarantined. Here’s how to transform your skin, but also your hair and face, with these 3 fall inspired homemade diy spa recipes!

at home homemade spa recipes for fall pumpkin

Pumpkin Spice Latte Body Scrub Spa Recipe

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

1 TBSP coconut oil (or olive oil)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 TBSP cinnamon

Instructions:

1.Mix the pumpkin puree with the oil until all combined

2. In a separate small bowl combine cinnamon, sugar, and coffee. Stir until completely mixed.

3. Pour the dry ingredients into the pumpkin and oil and whisk until completely combined.

4. Apply to body in bath tub or shower and scrub to exfoliate.

5. Rinse!

*Tip: the longer this recipe sits, the more the sugar dissolves. Since it works in addition to the coffee for exfoliation, try to use it asap. Also, maybe don’t use this one before bed if you’re sensitive to caffeine.

*Of all the fall-inspired diy homemade spa recipes, this is my favorite! Maybe because I’ve just last year jumped on the pumpkin spice flavor wagon, but this pumpkin scrub recipe is seriously sublime!

fall inspired homemade spa recipes body scrub leg

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Apple Cider Vinegar + Yogurt Conditioning Hair Mask Spa Recipe

1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s brand–it’s organic and has ‘the mother’)

2 TBSP yogurt (plain, full fat, organic)

2 TBSP honey (raw, unheated)

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together really well. Apply to barely dampened hair and massage into the scalp and ends of hair. Wrap hair into a bun. Cover with plastic if you wish. Leave for 20-30 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water. (Great for weekly conditioning mask!)

Glowing Pumpkin Face Mask Spa Recipe

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh, but try to use organic)

1 egg (raw, organic)

1 tsp honey (raw, unheated)

1/2 TBSP apple cider vinegar (organic, I use Bragg’s brand with ‘the mother’)

Instructions:

1. Whisk egg, then add pumpkin puree and honey. Mix till combined.

2. Stir in apple cider vinegar till completely mixed.

3. *This is messy, so wear something you don’t mind getting drips on! Apply to freshly washed face over the sink, tub, or shower in case of drips.

4. Leave for 15-20 minutes, then rinse, and follow with moisturizer.

fall inspired homemade spa recipes face scrub jar

Hopefully you can ‘transition’ into fall with me with these yummy fall-inspired 🎃 diy homemade spa recipes as well! (Just try not to eat it first! 😉)

diy spa recipes at home pumpkin fall  food

Know someone that could use some self care me time via fall-inspired spa recipes? Please SHARE this post!

Pineapple Kiwi Mocktail

When it comes to a mocktail that’s fun + fruity but has the added benefit of improving sleep, this Pineapple Kiwi Mocktail is pretty much perfect!

Pineapple contains melatonin, which helps improve sleep, and kiwifruit has been shown in studies to improve sleep as well, making them a perfectly dynamic duo.

What I love about this Pineapple Kiwi Mocktail recipe is that even though we’re using fruit, which contains fructose, we’re not using straight juice. The fruit itself stays in the recipe, which keeps all the fiber. This is important for sleep to help blunt blood-sugar spikes, which can interfere with sleep.

Plus the tropical feel of this mocktail is super fun!

{This is not to say that this mocktail is a good option if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic and having a hard time controlling your blood sugar. Know your body and go from there. ie-be smart about your mocktail options!}

Pineapple Kiwi Mocktail

Prep Time 7 mins
Total Time 7 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1 kiwi fruit peeled and chunked
  • 1/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks or can use canned
  • 2-3 drops liquid stevia to taste
  • 1 can lemon seltzer water or sparkling water
  • 1 sprig fresh mint leaves optional, for garnish and aroma

Instructions
 

  • Put chunks of kiwi and pineapple, and stevia drops in a high-powered blender cup. Add 1/4 cup seltzer water and pulse approx 20-30 seconds until pureed into a smoothie-like texture.
  • Place ice cubes in a large glass.
  • Pour fruit mixture into glass.
  • Top it off with seltzer water and stir.
  • Garnish with mint. Enjoy!
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegan

Egg, Bacon, + Avocado Bowl

This high-protein, high-fat breakfast bowl will keep you satisfied and focused for hours in the morning. Plus it’s a perfect post-workout muscle builder!

Egg, Bacon, + Avocado Bowl

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Breakfast
Servings 1
Calories 378 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 slices bacon organic, uncured
  • 2 eggs medium to large
  • 1/2 avocado chopped
  • 1 TBSP red onion finely chopped
  • 1 TBSP red bell pepper finely chopped
  • sea salt + pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Prep all vegetables per the ingredients list
  • Fry the bacon until crisp on a non-stick pan. Let it cool slightly and chop.
  • Combine the bacon, eggs, avocado, onion, and bell pepper in a bowl.
  • Season with salt and pepper to serve.

Notes

Per serving:
32 g fat
14 g carb
23 g protein
*For vegan option, replace eggs with meat-free substitute
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Sugar-Free, Vegan
egg bacon avocado bowl breakfast low carb

Egg Broccoli + Turkey Muffins

These little savory muffins are full of comfort, without the carbs. They’re gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, and amazing as a batch-prepped breakfast or snack!

Egg Broccoli + Turkey Muffins

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Breakfast, lunch, Snack
Servings 6
Calories 102 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 head broccoli
  • 5 eggs medium to large
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 pinch chili flakes optional
  • 4 slices turkey from deli
  • 1/3 cup cheddar shredded

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 360°F(180°C).
  • Place the broccoli in a pot of boiling water and cook for approx. 3 minutes. Strain and cut into small pieces.
  • Beat the eggs in a medium-size bowl, add the minced garlic and season with salt and pepper, and chili flakes if using.
  • Grease a 6 muffin tray with oil or butter, and fill the muffin tin with evenly divided broccoli, ham, and grated cheese. Pour the beaten eggs into the muffin tin and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until eggs have set.

Notes

Per muffin nutrition:
6 g fat
4 g carb
10 g protein
*For vegan option, replace cheese with plant-based cheese + replace turkey with meat-free option.
Keyword Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Sugar-Free, Vegan