Sunshine Cocktail or Mocktail

For those of us who are knee-deep in snow right now (half of the country) – you need a pitcher filled with sunshine!! And this cocktail, or mocktail (no alcohol) will hit the sunny spot. Loaded with strong antioxidant vitamin C, it’s the perfect immunity booster when the dreaded flu hits your house.

INGREDIENTS
3 lemons, cut into quarters
12 fresh sage leaves, torn in half
3 tsp coconut sugar
1.5 C gin (if necessary) do I have to say? – for adults ONLY
1.5 C freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Ice
GARNISH
Sage leaves and grapefruit wheels

DIRECTIONS
Muddle the lemons, one-half of the sage leaves, and the coconut sugar in a pitcher. Add the grapefruit juice, and ice and stir until well combined. If this is for the adults only – add your gin.

Strain the contents of the pitcher into 6 ice-filled rocks glasses. Garnish each with the remaining sage leaves and grapfruit wheels and serve.

Sunshine in a glass!!

Richard Branson’s Tips for Happiness in 2018

Just yesterday, while on the treadmill listening to a Tony Robbins podcast, Tony mentioned that of all the successful entrepreneur’s he’s interviewed in his lifetime, Richard Branson is, by far, the happiest of them all.

Then I got this blog post in my email later that day – a sign from the Universe? Maybe…and also a great read that I had to share –

Richard Branson smiling

I’m often asked: What is the key to success? My answer is always simple: happiness. Happiness should be everyone’s goal, but I understand that it can seem out of reach, with many, for instance, affected by mental health problems that alter their outlook on life.

A few years ago I wrote the following letter for Mind’s book: Dear Stranger, Letters on the subject of happiness.

I re-read it recently and was struck by how much the words still ring true, so I thought I would republish the letter in the hope that my words can help others find the true happiness they deserve in 2018.

Dear Stranger,

You don’t know me but I hear you are going through a tough time, and I would like to help you. I want to be open and honest with you, and let you know that happiness isn’t something just afforded to a special few. It can be yours, if you take the time to let it grow.

It’s OK to be stressed, scared and sad, I certainly have been throughout my life. I’ve confronted my biggest fears time and time again. I’ve cheated death on many adventures, seen loved ones pass away, failed in business, minced my words in front of tough audiences, and had my heart broken.

I know I’m fortunate to live an extraordinary life, and that most people would assume my business success, and the wealth that comes with it, have brought me happiness. But they haven’t; in fact it’s the reverse. I am successful, wealthy and connected because I am happy.

Richard Branson

So many people get caught up in doing what they think will make them happy but, in my opinion, this is where they fail. Happiness is not about doing, it’s about being. In order to be happy, you need to think consciously about it. Don’t forget the to-do list, but remember to write a to-be list too.

Kids are often asked: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ The world expects grandiose aspirations: ‘I want to be a writer, a doctor, the prime minister.’

They’re told: go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, and then you’ll be happy. But that’s all about doing, not being – and while doing will bring you moments of joy, it won’t necessarily reward you with lasting happiness.

Stop and breathe. Be healthy. Be around your friends and family. Be there for someone, and let someone be there for you. Be bold. Just be for a minute.

Richard Branson Family

If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow. I speak from experience. We’ve built a business empire, joined conversations about the future of our planet, attended many memorable parties and met many unforgettable people. And while these things have brought me great joy, it’s the moments that I stopped just to be, rather than do, that have given me true happiness. Why? Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective. Try it. Be still. Be present.

For me, it’s watching the flamingos fly across Necker Island at dusk. It’s holding my new grandchildren’s tiny hands. It’s looking up at the stars and dreaming of seeing them up close one day. It’s listening to my family’s dinner-time debates. It’s the smile on a stranger’s face, the smell of rain, the ripple of a wave, the wind across the sand. It’s the first snow fall of winter, and the last storm of summer.

There’s a reason we’re called human beings and not human doings. As human beings we have the ability to think, move and communicate in a heightened way. We can cooperate, understand, reconcile and love, that’s what sets us apart from most other species. 

Don’t waste your human talents by stressing about nominal things, or that which you cannot change. If you take the time simply to be and appreciate the fruits of life, your stresses will begin to dissolve, and you will be happier.

But don’t just seek happiness when you’re down. Happiness shouldn’t be a goal, it should be a habit. Take the focus off doing, and start being every day. Be loving, be grateful, be helpful, and be a spectator to your own thoughts.

Allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment. Take the focus off everything you think you need to do, and start being I promise you, happiness will follow.

Happy regards,

Richard Branson

Your Guide to Feeling More Empowered in the New Year

If you’re looking to make a change this New Year—whatever feeds your soul and piques your interest—it’s smart to prepare with a little extra effort and direction.

Whether you’re looking for an industry change, company change, personal change or any change, you need to understand and commit to these four points.

1. Get Clear on What You Want
You’re not sure what a new job looks like, but you know you’re not happy and you’re ready for a change. Now what? You need to get clear on what you do want. It can take some digging, talking to people you trust, and refocusing on YOU as your #1 priority.

I’m not saying drop all other responsibilities, but as new commitments arise, ask yourself if committing to this will help you get clearer on your career journey. If it doesn’t, you may need to say no.

A few tricks to stay dedicated and reach clarity?

Dedicating time to self-care, journaling, stepping outside your comfort zone in some way, or doing things that sound fun and meaningful all can be ways to start figuring out what you love doing and how you can get more of it. Or as lululemon’s manifesto says, ‘Do one thing a day that scares you!’

2. Ask Yourself: “Why Do I Want This?”
Connecting with the reason(s) why a goal is so important to you keeps you going when times get tough. Remember your why. and go as deep as you can.

Asking the following questions may help spark change:
-How long have I wanted this career change?
-Why is this change so meaningful to me?
-What vision do I have for my life once I’ve made the transition?
-How does this change align with my personal core values and strengths?

Once you’ve figured out your why, think about the how and create action steps for turning those dreams and thoughts into a bright reality.

3. Make a Plan
That next step – plan! You know what you’re looking for, now you need a plan to get there. Dedicate chunks of time to brainstorm how you can execute the change. Get out your day planner or smartphone calendar and carve out time to write this down.

Ask yourself,

  • Who do I need help from?
  • What current commitments can I delegate or let go of?
  • What’s my timeline?
  • Is my timeline realistic?
  • Do I need to save money or make any investments in myself or my education?

Give yourself enough time to really come up with a solid direction, so it’ll limit mishaps and expedite the path to success.

4. Get to Work!
Similar to making the plan, now you need to make a daily/weekly/monthly commitment to execute your plan. Ask yourself what obstacles and fears may get in your way. Make a promise that fear will not stop you from moving forward.

And don’t let defeatist thoughts get in your way. Reconnect with your “why” when these tough times happen and know that the best things come from challenges.

Remember that this is your growth journey, no one else’s, so while you can look to others for inspiration, you are not allowed to compare yourself to them. Instead of focusing on the immense challenge still ahead of you, reflect on and celebrate the progress you are making, no matter how small it may seem. Life’s too short to not enjoy the process.

A Few Tricks to Make You a Healthier Shopper

We’re all guilty of this at some point; you’re walking aimlessly down the grocery aisles looking for nothing in particular but you’re so hungry you’d eat just about anything so you grab food that you normally wouldn’t.

Did you just grab a box with bright, cheery colors (probably with a huge sunshine)? Or a bag of something with a happy, giggling kid on the front? Or you look in your cart and find the ultimate – a package of something with an image oozing with chocolaty gooey goodness and…what’s this? At the bottom of the package it reads: And good for you too! I…MUST…HAVE…

A few simple tips:

Before you jump in your car or walk to your local grocery store – grab an apple to eat before you leave. Shoppers who eat healthy snacks before heading down the grocery aisle left with a healthier haul than those who shopped hungry or full of junk food, a study shows.

Researchers gave three groups of shoppers three different snacks before shopping. One group munched on an apple slice, the other group was given a cookie, and the third group got nothing.

After peeking through their carts, the research team found that the apple eaters bought 28% more fruits and vegetables than the cookie group and 25% more than the group who shopped on an empty stomach.

healthy groceries

This is even more interesting: Researchers found similar results in a follow up study where they gave both groups a glass of chocolate milk before hitting the aisles. But, they described the milk as wholesome to one group and indulgent to another. The group that drank “wholesome” milk shopped significantly healthier than their “indulgent” counterparts.

So what does this all mean?

“Anything that puts you in a healthy mindset, whether it’s actually a health food or not, can change your mind to healthier choices,” said Aner Tal, PhD, one of the study’s authors.

It’s kind of like a produce aisle placebo. One little trick I use when picking up anything to throw in my cart, I ask myself this simple question, “How will this food nourish me and my body?” You’d be surprised just how quickly you put that pint of Ben & Jerry’s back in the grocery freezer!

So remember, eat a healthy snack before you grocery shop, and shop mindfully – your body will thank you for it.

A New Year’s Clean Sweep

I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions; just the word ‘resolution’ is upsetting to me. I don’t want to start any new year off with with a mindset full of self-inflicted demands on myself. I’d much rather free up space in my mind, in my house, in my life, to allow for more possibilities.

While studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I not only learned about over 100 nutritional eating plans and diets but I also learned (which I’ve always known, one of the reasons I was drawn to this school) how other aspects of our lives contribute to our overall health even more so than diet. Think of it this way, you’re in a job that stresses you so much that you get a morning stomach ache every Monday – Friday. While eating kale daily will help your overall health, your job is creating so much stress on your body and mind that the nutrition from the kale takes a back seat. Your body is too busy trying to combat all the daily stress!

Let’s think of this New Year as a time to clean house – in a mind, body, soul type of manner.

The Clean Sweep Program, created by Thomas Leonard, consists of 100 items
that, when completed, give more space in your life for vitality and strength. When you clear your environment, tie up loose ends, and mend relationships, you have more
natural energy for a happy and healthy life.

Ready to try it?

Clean Sweep

And, if you have any questions, let me know – I’d be more than happy to talk to you!

And here’s to a happier, healthier, feeling blessed and peaceful and more grateful-filled New Year!

 

picture by Amy Treasure

Foods That Curb Stress

Stress can kill you….literally. And no matter how healthy your eating habits are or how much kale you consume in a day, you are not immune to the negative effects of stress.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your stress level?

Chronic stress negatively affects every system in your body, and can be the culprit behind weight gain, digestive issues, and fatigue.

And, it’s a scientific fact that stress can literally kill you. In Japan there is a word for it: Karōshi , which means death from overwork. YIKES! In the United States, we recognize Broken Heart Syndrome, or stress-induced cardiomyopathy, which in some cases, can also be fatal. But…are we over-looking a major trend in our society of ignoring stress?

So, what are you doing to manage your stress? My first recommendation is to practice meditation. Meditation has a multitude of health benefits like lowering blood pressure, returning heart rate to its natural rhythm, etc. but today, let’s talk food.

Here are 7 foods that actually help curb our stress levels – check it out.

7 Anti Stress Foods

kale

Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens contain high levels of magnesium, a critical mineral for managing stress. Stress depletes your body of magnesium, and this can lead to headaches, anxiety, and restlessness.  You won’t feel the results of eating greens instantaneously, so be sure to keep them in daily rotation to reap the benefits.

chia pudding

 Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a good source of magnesium, a critical mineral for managing stress and mitigating depression. Plus they contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which provide anti-inflammatory benefits to the brain, resulting in less stress and anxiety. In fact, some doctors and researchers believe the growing epidemic of depression and anxiety in our population has something to do with our diet, including widespread omega-3 deficiency. Add chia seeds to your morning smoothie. Add chia seeds to your peanut butter and celery, sprinkle chia seeds in your salad.

avocado

Avocado

Creamy avocados are high in stress-busting B-vitamins, which support healthy nerves and brain cells. In fact, some studies suggest feelings of depression and anxiety may be linked to B Vitamin deficiency. I put avocado in everything; eggs in the morning, salad in the afternoon, as a side for dinner! I’ve been known to cut open an avocado and eat it right out of the skin with a spoon!

walnut

 Nuts

Nuts, including almonds, cashews, and walnuts contain zinc, a mineral that plays a crucial role in modulating the way the brain and body respond to stress. They’re also a good source of stress-busting magnesium. Check out my recipe for Roasted Pecans with Rosemary, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt

dark chocolate

Dark Chocolate

There’s no mistaking the feel good rush we feel after biting into a piece of dark chocolate. That’s because it boosts our serotonin levels, which also boosts our mood and makes us feel happier. In addition, studies indicate that polyphenols found in cocoa can reduce stress.

Opt for dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa (85% is even better!) and a gentler natural sweetener such as coconut sugar. Better yet, add pure cocoa or cacao powder to your smoothie, sprinkle on your almond butter or throw it in any dessert recipe. And please look for fair-trade chocolate. Endangered Species Chocolate

green tea

 Green Tea

Having a cup of green tea instead of the usual frap not only gives your body a break from high levels of caffeine – population studies indicate it reduces stress too. (Note there is still caffeine in green tea, just less than coffee, and it tends to be gentler on the body). Other studies have singled out theanine, an amino acid found in the tea, for promoting relaxation and anti-stress effects.

beans

 Beans, surprised?

Beans, like chickpeas, black beans, and cannellini beans, provide high levels of folate, a B Vitamin that has been scientifically shown to reduce and relieve stress by regulating your mood. They’re also a good source of B6 which supports the central nervous system and may aid in the reduction of fatigue.

Experiment with your food, have fun, keep a journal of how you felt an hour or so after eating – and whatever works, stick with it!

I’ll post more about meditation in the next few weeks.

Pictures by:

Tookapic, mali maeder, Brenda Godinez, Markus Spiske, Paul Morris

 

 

A Healthy, Homemade Hostess Gift – YAY YOU!

If you’re staying with friends over the holidays, or going to one of many holiday parties, you know the polite thing to do is to bring a hostess gift. Instead of picking up yet another scented candle (Zzzzz) or bottle of wine, give something with a personal touch by making it yourself. Here’s one of my favorite easy, healthy recipes, which quite easily could get you invited back!

Roasted Pecans with Rosemary, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt

  • SERVES: MAKES 3 CUPS/300 G
  • TOTAL TIME: 15 MINUTES
  • ACTIVE TIME: 3 MINUTES

Ingredients

  • 3 cups/300 g raw pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Fine sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
  2. Arrange the pecans on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake until browned and fragrant, about 12 minutes.
  3. While the nuts are still warm, return them to the bowl and add the oil, rosemary, and salt to taste, tossing to evenly coat. Return the mixture to the baking sheet, set the sheet on a wire rack, and let cool to room temperature.

Put these little delicious beauties into a glass jar, wrap a festive ribbon around the top with a hang tag thanking your guest for their hospitality and voila – you’re the best guest on the guest list!

Home-cooked Stovetop Stuffing

Just like mom made?

Stovetop stuffing is another popular holiday tradition. That red cardboard box had a reserved seat at most family tables and you probably couldn’t get enough. Who could have imagined that some stale bread, spices, and dried vegetables cooked up in a little butter could and would taste so good?

If you’re working to carry your health-consciousness through the holiday season, you’re probably looking for a better way to make this traditional dish. You probably can’t bring yourself to eat something that contains things like high fructose corn syrup, hydrolyzed soy protein (even if it is less than two percent), partially hydrogenated oils, sugar, caramel color, maltodextrin, BHA, and BHT (preservatives). Yikes!

How about…better than mom-made!

No need to fear, because with just a little extra elbow grease you can have this family favorite without all those unwanted chemicals and preservatives. Starting with wholesome ingredients from scratch and throwing in a mouthwatering combination of spices, you’ll be amazed at just how easy it is. And of course, making something yourself helps you always know exactly what’s in your food!

Homecooked Stovetop Stuffing

Don’t forget the herbal benefits

As you read through your holiday recipes, you may start to notice that the spices typically stealing the show are well known for their health benefits. If you can focus on letting these flavors and tastes shine and eliminate all the unnecessary processed sugars, bad fats and carbs and curb overeating, your holiday meal could actually be beneficial to your system.

Even Simon and Garfunkel knew the benefits of the spices used in this dish…they sang about it in their 1966 hit “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.” While this dish doesn’t use rosemary (although you can always try adding it for a slightly different flavor profile!), it puts to use all the others.

Parsley sage rosemary and thyme

Parsley is a medicinal herb that benefits the body as a diuretic and helps remove toxins from the body. It has also been touted as an effective breath freshener, but unfortunately, isn’t in high enough amounts in this dish to overcome those potent dried onions. Sage has incredible antioxidant properties that helps support better brain function. Thyme has been known to help with chest and respiratory problems including coughs and chest congestion–even bronchitis, and has antibacterial properties.

Home-Cooked Stovetop Stuffing (serves 9)

  • 3 slices bread of choice – this recipe uses Nature’s Own Wheat+Protein Bread
  • ½ tablespoon dried parsley
  • ⅛ cup dried onion flakes
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoon grass-fed butter
  • 1 ½ teaspoons  Better Than Boullion, Chicken
  • 1 ½ cups of water

stuffing ingredients

Directions

stuffing bread cubes

  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Cut your bread slices into 1×1 inch squares and spread them onto a foil-lined cookie sheet.
  3. Bake four minutes (until browned) then flip all squares and bake (until browned). Set aside to cool completely, but keep the oven on.
  4. Mix all dry ingredients (parsley, onions, thyme, pepper, sage and salt).
  5. Combine dry ingredients with bread crumbs and stir or toss gently to coat.
  6. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add Better Than Boullion and stir to combine.
  7. Add bread and spice mixture and heat through, stirring frequently until well-coated and warm (at this stage it will look and smell very similar to the boxed stuff).
  8. Set entire mixture aside, emptying pan. Add 1 ½ cups of water and three more tablespoons of butter and bring to a boil.
  9. Add stuffing mixture back to pan, stir to combine. Cover and remove from heat.
  10. Let stand five minutes and fluff with a fork.
  11. Transfer to a baking dish and cook in 350º oven until top is a little crispy, times may vary depending on how soggy your stuffing is.

 

 

 

Transfer to a baking dish and cook in 350º oven until top is a little crispy, times may vary depending on how soggy your stuffing is.

Recipe Notes

  • If you don’t think stuffing is stuffing without celery, you can add ⅛ cup of it in. Also to sweeten the profile, put in ⅛ cup of sugar free dried cranberries.
  • To save time, you can forego the baking of the stuffing in the oven and serve it directly from the stove top, just like momma used to.
  • If you need this to be gluten and dairy free, use a gluten free bread of your choice and use dairy-free butter.
  • If you don’t have Better Than Bouillon, you can substitute it with an equal number of bouillon cubes (flavor of your choice), but the final sodium content of your dish will be slightly higher.