Originally posted on Sep 26, 2018, 10:36 am. Updated on Oct. 16, 2019.
If you’re doubtful of the healing power of food, just ask Brooke Goldner, M.D. When she was 16 and diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Nephritis with stage four kidney disease, she never thought she would reach the age of 40. Now she’s healed, healthy and was featured on the cover of Vegan Health & Fitness magazine’s Fit Over 40 issue in April 2018. That’s a transformation that she credits almost entirely to the way she eats. Today, as a best-selling author, the founder of VeganMedicalDoctor.com, GoodbyeLupus.com and creator of the Hyper-Nourishing Nutrition Protocol for Lupus Recovery, she’s helping others to heal themselves with food as well.
As I was interviewing Dr. Goldner for my post on Exploring a Plant-Based Diet, she shared her story with me. There was simply no way I could fit in all of the powerful information she gave me into that one post, so I decided to begin my new profile series on the Healing Power of Food with Dr. Goldner’s journey from disease to health. She reveals the not-so-secret way that she overcame her debilitating and potentially deadly disease and some things you can do to heal your body and feel your best.
** The end of this post was updated in October 2019 with information about the amount of nutrition training U.S. doctors get in medical school.
Even with everything that’s going on right now, I hope you’re finding a way to get out and get some movement or exercise into your life on a daily basis. We know this is good for us anytime, but we especially need it now – to help keep us as healthy as possible, both mentally and physically. That’s not earth-shattering news to anyone, but did you also know that the same is true of our financial fitness? We should be gauging it daily – assessing it, maintaining it and giving it tune-ups when needed.
Perform Daily Financial Fitness Checks
I want to be clear here. I am not talking about checking your stock portfolio, your retirement plan or your child’s college savings plan daily. That is a migraine waiting to happen at this point in time. What I’m talking about is your personal budget. If you don’t have one, I strongly encourage you to use any extra time you may have these days to develop one. Feel free to check out my tips and suggested resources for doing that here.
As an experienced budget maker and follower, I know all too well the benefits of having a spending and savings plan at any time, let alone when there’s a major crisis and it’s easy to think that the sky is falling. Having a budget and checking in on it daily actually helps to put you in the driver’s seat and lets you have at least some control over what is happening to you personally. Unlike with our retirement plans or stock portfolios, ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the amount of money we have at our disposal right now.
Daily Financial Fitness Checks Encourage an Attitude of Abundance
The key is looking at personal budgets through a lens of abundance and not lack. A budget helps to support your dreams and your reality. Knowing where you stand financially on a daily basis helps things not to seem as bleak as your imagination may be telling you they are. Or, it may provide a much-needed wake-up call about how you’re choosing to spend your money and whether your choices are really a good idea at this time.
For example, can you really afford to keep going through a month’s worth of stockpiled snacks in one week just because they’re there? Or is it better to exercise some discipline and put the extras out of sight so that you’re not tempted to go through $50 worth of snacks every week when that may be your snack budget for the entire month? Think about what will serve your goals and your immediate needs best. If you’re not checking in on your finances daily, those extra purchases may not seem like such a big deal in the moment. But if you’re keeping an eye on the big picture, they may mean the difference between being able to afford the basic healthy food you’ll need later on or being able to do something fun that you had been wanting to do when this is all over.
5 Minutes a Day is All You Need
I’m not talking about investing hours a day on this. I’m talking about investing 5 minutes a day while you’re having your morning coffee or tea. Whether you’re using an online tool (see below for some suggestions) or a spreadsheet, here’s what I recommend that you do with this time.
Make sure that you have an accurate record of how much is in your bank account (we used to call this balancing our checkbook).
Record any expenses or deposits from the day before in your budgeting tool (this includes from your bank account and any credit card activity because it will impact what you owe later in the month or the following month).
Scan over your budget to make sure everything looks like it’s on track with where you want to be. If it doesn’t, briefly consider where you need to make changes (starting with that day), to get you back on track.
These are challenging times. While we don’t know exactly what the full impact will be on us financially, the one thing we can control is how we manage our personal finances. Daily financial fitness now will hopefully help to prevent too much stress in this moment as well as further financial hardship down the road. And that will be good for every aspect of our lives – including our overall health and wellbeing.
6 Hacks for Staying Sane and Productive Even with Kids Around.
There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus pandemic has turned the world upside down for many of us – especially when it comes to keeping work going for those who are now having to do that from home. If you’re used to talking about “working from home” with air quotes as you really use the time to deal with a repairman or some other project that needs to get done around the house, the current mandate may be providing quite a shock to your system. That’s even more true if you have kids at home while you’re being asked to be just as productive as you would be in the office. As someone who has worked from home for the past 15 years starting when I had a newborn and a 5-year-old, I wanted to share some hacks I’ve learned along the way for how to effectively work from home during the Coronavirus outbreak while staying sane and productive even with kids around.
Take a Shower and Get Dressed
What I’ve found is that getting dressed and ready for the day first thing in the morning makes me feel like I’m ready to go. I’m as mentally prepared and ready to be productive as I would be if I were heading out to an office. Even staying in my workout clothes if I’ve worked out in the morning doesn’t feel right. I need to be in regular clothes that may not be as dressy or fashionable as they would be if I were going to an office, but they still make me feel like I’m prepared to meet the day head on.
Be Disciplined and Focused
I fully recognize that being disciplined and focused on the work that you’re doing can be challenging if there are numerous other distractions vying for your attention. Being home 24 hours a day can magnify everything that needs to get done, whether it’s the pile of laundry sitting in the corner or the dirty dishes in the sink. The trick is getting to the place where it mentally doesn’t matter – at least not for the time that you’re supposed to be working.
If it’s your time to work, you have to tune everything else out, unless you have younger kids. In that case, you’ll quickly learn the difference between a “The dog just knocked down my cardboard box castle” yell and an “I’m bleeding profusely” yell. Trust me, they can sound similar, but there is a distinct difference. If it’s not the later, be aware of it, but keep it in the background. If it is something that needs your attention, briefly address it and then get back to work.
I know for a fact that if your livelihood depends on it, “work from home” in air quotes simply turns into getting the work done no matter what.
Set Specific Times to Work
Your ability to focus fully on your work at least for certain amounts of time during the day is going to be critical to your ability to effectively work from home during this time. If you don’t have young kids at home, it’s fairly easy to set hours that you’ll be working. You should be aware though that even with teenagers or another adult in the house, there will be times when everyone will be in the kitchen or everyone will need something or simply want to talk. That’s why it’s so important for anyone who is working in the house to set regular times and let everyone else know when those times are. A whiteboard in the kitchen or a note on the refrigerator listing everyone’s working times are good ways of doing this.
If you do have kids in the house who need your supervision or help with schoolwork, things get trickier, but it is possible for you to get work done too. Here are a few suggestions. You’ll notice that most include the phrase “If at all possible.”
If your spouse or partner is working from home too, divide the responsibilities between the two of you so that each of you has some dedicated work time during the hours when others may need to get in touch with you. Let your colleagues, customers or clients know when those times are so that if at all possible, meetings, emails and other types of communication can happen at that point. This may require close coordination with those same people when determining your hours to begin with so that it coincides with when they’re available as well.
If you have young children who still nap, by all means, plan to work during that time.
If you have school age children, there should be certain points in the day when they’re working independently. If at all possible, use this time to get your work done as well (this is not the time to fold clothes or do the dishes). Clearly, if you have multiple children who need your assistance with their work, you may also be using independent work time for one to help another, so this definitely falls under the “If at all possible” category.
If you have young children, have books, blocks and coloring supplies set up near your work area. Even better, have activities that they only get to do in that space. Let your child know that this is work time and while you’re working, he can be working on his special projects and that he can surprise you with what he’s done when the time is up. This approach was a lifesaver for me, and my youngest son would often ask if we could “play work time” because he enjoyed it so much.
Get up early enough to allow yourself 2-3 hours of quiet work time before the rest of the house gets going or stay up late. For me, getting up early has always been the answer because that’s the time that I’m at my freshest and that I feel like I have the most control over.
Have a Set Place to Work
While setting up a dedicated office space may not be possible, you can carve out a spot to work somewhere. It may be a corner of the table, a side table turned into a desk in the living room, or anywhere else that lets you keep what you need to work in one place. That’s the key, keeping it all in one place and having a space that lets you know when you’re there, you’re working.
Turn Off News and Social Media Alerts on Your Phone
Yes, there is a lot going on right now that we need to be aware of, but it doesn’t need to be every minute. Turning off news and social media alerts while you’re working will cut down on the distractions and let you be in charge of when you allow information and other people in. Have set times or intervals when you check one to two news websites and give yourself a set amount of time to do it in. This will make sure that you get the most important need-to-know information without falling down an information rabbit hole.
Keep Quick and Easy Healthy Snacks on Hand
If you’re new to working from home, the temptation to snack or “graze” throughout the day may be strong. The situation we’re in is different to say the least and in many ways, very stressful. Snacking while you’re working could easily become a “go to” way of dealing with that. I think it’s best to acknowledge it upfront and make sure that you have quick and easy healthy snacks on hand. That way, you’re prepared when the snacking urge hits, and you don’t have to reach for whatever chips or sweets might be laying around. Nuts and seeds are my favorites for this.
Of course, even if you do all of these things, there may simply be times when you end up with a kid on your lap and a phone in your ear while sitting in front of the computer. Whether you’re a pro at working from home or a newbie, sometimes you just have to do what you gotta do to get it all done. And if I’m being honest, as long as you can keep your wits about you, these are the times that will put it all in perspective and remind you of what you’re working for in the first place.
Lean on Your Community
If you’re using any of these suggestions, let us know how it’s going and what your experience has been. Or, if you have other hacks that you’ve come up with, please share in the comments below. And certainly, if you’re facing a particular work-from-home challenge, post it here, and let’s see if we can come up with a solution together.
Tips on how to use simplicity to support your health and wellbeing.
By anyone’s standards, these are challenging times. It would be very easy to feel like victims of circumstances outside of our control, but it’s important to remember, that doesn’t have to be the case. Instead, we could use the forced simplification of our lives that many of us are experiencing as a chance to look at what really matters and to make sure that we’re putting our valuable time, energy and money toward the right things for us. Fewer commitments, more time with those we love and the chance to bring it all back to the basics may not be such a bad thing. In fact, it could be a time to figure out how to simplify your life so that less means more.
To help us do that, I turned to Courtney Carver, an expert on how to be more with less and author of Soulful Simplicity and the recently published Project 333. Through this Q&A and her tips on how to use simplicity to support our health and wellbeing, we may be able to use this part of our journey to get back to ourselves and to become healthier and happier along the way.
Please Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through some of the links included in this post.You can read my disclosure policy here.
Peppermint Tea & Me: When you talk about simplifying our lives, what does that mean?
Courtney Carver: For me, simplicity is just one of the steps that I’ve taken to live a healthier and happier life. This means removing the stuff that weighs me down, removing the stuff that was really getting in the way of me being me, and for me, reaching a level of health and really purpose in my life. I was so bogged down with stuff and obligation and ideas – what we all do – we just pile it all on and keep piling and piling until one day, for most of us, we say, ‘This is enough’ and try to dig out.
PTM: In both Soulful Simplicity and Project 333, you talk a lot about remembering yourself and making you. What does that mean and what does it have to do with simplifying our lives?
CC: I think that in the busyness of our lives and in the very full lives that we build, in the process, we step outside of ourselves and inch by inch really forget who we are and what matters to us and what power we have over that. We just forget, and we make these little compromises. Whether it be in work or in relationships or in things that we say yes or no to that don’t really resonate with who we really are. Every time we do that, we just break away a little bit. I think that through simplicity – kind of peeling back those layers, we can start to remember what matters to us. So, I like to think about simplicity as something that doesn’t change us, it brings us back. It gives us that space to connect with our hearts, to remember what’s important to us. Once that happens, once you make that connection, then all the things that you thought were so hard, like saying no to things or going in a different path than people in your life might expect or approve of, that doesn’t matter as much as you thought it did. It becomes much easier to stand in your truth.
PTM: What does simplifying our lives have to do with our health and overall wellbeing?
CC: I think it’s like the secret superpower of health. At least for me, when I started to become very intentional about becoming healthy, simplicity wasn’t on the docket of things to do. For me, the number one thing as someone who is living with Multiple Sclerosis was to eliminate stress. Stress can be very damaging – especially if it’s an overwhelming amount that you can’t begin to chip away. That level of stress has to manifest somewhere and it’s often in our bodies – whether it’s physical health, mental health; it shows itself. So, for me, it was all about eliminating stress.
Even outside of MS, just day to day energy and feeling well. I think that we forget that we can feel well. So many people around me were tired and sick and overwhelmed and feeling like crap was their cross to bear. I just felt like I was part of that. That this was adulting. I’m supposed to feel kind of crappy. Thankfully, that’s not the case. That’s not to say that we don’t get sick from time to time, but on a day to day level, most of us can feel better than we do.
Obviously, there’s exceptions to everything I say but for the most part, and certainly for me, eliminating stress was the answer. Stress with food, stress with clutter, stress with debt. As I was doing these changes, I started to see the connection. The thread that ran between all of these things was simplicity. Then I started to quickly apply that lens to all of the changes I was making. How can I make this more simple? It’s not that I wanted to have a simple life. I wanted to use simplicity to have a healthy one.
PTM: When you say we don’t have to fill up all the space, what do you mean?
CC: What I mean by not filling up the space is that so often, and I did this for years. I would declutter and then I’d see an empty space on the bookshelf or in my closet and I’d think automatically that this is an invitation to add something to that space because it shouldn’t be just empty. That feels uncomfortable. I think we often try to fill the empty spaces for fear of that discomfort – it could be physical spaces like I mentioned, but they could also be spaces in between waiting at a red light or waiting in line somewhere. The natural tendency is to pick up our phone. We have so many availabilities to fill up all these spaces. If we’re heartbroken or feeling really down, I think we fill that space with alcohol, with food, with reality TV, whatever it is, we just don’t want to be in that empty space. I think there are answers in that space, so I think it’s worth thinking about. When you feel like you have to fill up the space to be comfortable, pause and consider what it would be like just to sit with how things are, the way they are.
PTM: You say that “Simplifying with the goal of becoming as simple as possible will prove to be as empty as changing your diet to be as skinny as possible.” Please explain what you mean by that?
CC: Simplicity sometimes makes me think of dieting, which I used to do to lose weight and to be thinner because that’s just what we did. Once I was diagnosed with MS, I started thinking about my diet in terms of health. How do these things fuel my body? How do they make me feel? And not worrying so much about the weight. I remember in those moments when I could stick with a diet for any length of time, and I would reach a goal weight or feel very skinny. It would last for a fraction of a second and it was never enough. Even as thin as I could get, I would always think ‘I should lose another 10 pounds, or I should be more fit’ because the focus wasn’t on the right things. It was on this superficial version of how I thought I was supposed to look to fit in the world. And then with simplicity, I noticed, at least when I was first starting out, there was a lot of competition around living with less and how a simple life should look or if you want to be a minimalist, you have to own this number of things.
I realized that it has to look right for your life. There aren’t a correct number of things to own to have a simple life. If you live downtown in the city, your life is going to look different than if you live in the suburbs or in a more remote area or depending on what your interests are. if you love baking, you’re going to have more items that contribute to that love in your life versus someone who doesn’t care about baking. It’s really not about the end result of how many items you have or how much you weigh, but rather how you feel in that process and how the things that you own are supporting your life.
Courtney’s Most Important First Steps to Simplify Your Life
Have a great reason to simplify. Really identify why you want to simplify your life because that will keep you motivated and on track.
Start small. It doesn’t matter whether you start with your closet or your kitchen or your garage but start small. To say, ‘I want to simplify my life,’ sounds out of reach for a lot of people. It did for me in the beginning as well. But simplifying my junk drawer or reducing some of the toiletries in my bathroom or working on one shelf of my bookshelf – those things are something that you can say, ‘Okay, I can do that today.’ Don’t make it this big stressful thing, just focus on these small changes. Whenever you can make big change small, there’s a much better opportunity for success.
Courtney’s Steps to Simplifying Your Wardrobe
Courtney believes that in order to make permanent change when it comes to simplifying your wardrobe, you have to own up to your behavior around shopping and clothes. Here are her steps to help you do that.
Dump everything on the bed so that you can see everything you own in one space. For me that was like an ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’ve actually spent this much money on this stuff where I only use a percentage of it.’ I needed to have that realization.
Watch your behavior around shopping. Think about why you shop. Do you really need something new or are you just in a bad mood and want to shop your way out of it?
Create distance between you and your clothes before making decisions on donating or selling. I recommend boxing up everything that you’re not wearing in that moment and getting it out of sight for a good three months. There’s an emotional connection that develops when we’re looking at our stuff every day. We think it belongs to us, like it’s a part of us, but when we separate ourselves from it for a while, we feel differently when we look at it. You may say, ‘What was a I thinking?’ or ‘Of course, I never wear that’ and it becomes much easier to make those decisions.
Keep what fits you and your lifestyle now. This isn’t what fit you and your lifestyle 10 years ago, five years ago or yesterday. The same holds true for moving forward. I mean sometimes we can have these aspirational wardrobes or aspirational ownership of other things where we buy things for the person we want to be or the person we hope other people perceive us to be. In reality, you’ll be much happier if you own what actually fits you, your body and your lifestyle now.
Ask for help if you need it. If you’re having trouble making decisions, consider asking someone you trust for help – not on what you should wear but on how things fit. If you have three pairs of black pants, and you’re not sure which ones to keep, somebody on the outside may be able to help you make that decision.
My Notes – Resources to Help Simplify Your Life
Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that Courtney created for herself to dress in 33 items or less for three months. Those items include clothing, jewelry, accessories and shoes. They do not include things like underwear, sleepwear and workout clothes. The catch – your workout clothes have to work out if you’re not going to count them in your 33 items. The project has become so popular that tens of thousands of people from all over the world are practicing it as well. You can find out more about it through Courtney’s new book, Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More (Affiliate link).
I’m going to make a bold statement here. Meal planning is one of the most abundant, creative things that you can do.
Stick with me on this. Too often we think of meal planning (if we think of it at all) as pure drudgery.
But, if we enter this undertaking with an attitude of abundance and appreciation for the fact that we get to be proactive and in control of what we’re going to put in our bodies for the next week and how much money we spend on that, we can experience a profound mental shift. Meal planning suddenly goes from being a mundane chore to a creative and exciting privilege. What makes it even more wonderful is how much money it saves us along the way!
What is Meal Planning
While I walk you through the crucial first steps of meal planning in this video, here’s my definition of it in a nutshell. It’s deciding ahead of time in a very conscious way every meal and snack that you and your family are going to have during the week and then creating your grocery list based on any ingredients that you don’t have to make them.
There are a number of great tools to help with this process (some of which are free) that I look at in more depth here.
A Money-Saving Mental Shift
The key is carving out a set time to sit down and devote your full attention to meal planning. I highly recommend having a steaming cup of your favorite hot drink in hand. This is the time to be inspired and creative – not when you’re rushing home from work and trying to figure out “what’s for dinner tonight?”
The weeks I look at it in a bored and tired way are inevitably the weeks that I forget to include half of the ingredients that I need and end up going back to the store multiple times. As we all know, every trip to the store costs more than what it should because we think of something else that we may need or want at that particular moment.
The really costly part to both our health and our budget is that when we make those middle of the week stops, we’re usually tired, rushed and either emotionally or physically hungry. We’re in a place of lack, not abundance. Unhealthy wants suddenly seem like needs and before you know it, you have half a basket full of things that if you were in a better place, you wouldn’t even think of getting.
I know for a fact that during the weeks that I make multiple unplanned trips to the store, I end up spending $25-$50 more than during the weeks where I plan everything out. That’s not to even mention when we completely throw in the towel and end up eating out because we don’t have what we need. Half the time, we still have to go by the grocery store to get the missing ingredients for something else that we’ll need them for later in the week.
There’s no doubt about it in my book. An open and abundant approach to meal planning is crucial to a healthy lifestyle and a healthy pocketbook. May your next trip with a grocery cart contribute to both!
A Dollars and Sense Take on What to Expect from This Popular Drink.
Let me be clear from the beginning. I love my almond milk. I discovered it when I was switching to a healthier way of eating and have never looked back. The key though, as I will explain, is that I use it as a vehicle for other healthy ingredients. I do not expect it to be the ultimate healthy ingredient in and of itself. That’s where I think a lot of confusion lies for many people and why I wanted to look at the pros and cons of almond milk while offering a dollars and sense take on what to expect from this popular drink.
What is Almond Milk?
At its core, almond milk is almonds and water. That’s it. That’s all you need to make it. Completely contrary to those who malign it as the newest “trendy” health drink, almond milk has been around since medieval times1, and yes, it was called ‘milk’ even at that point.
Because there are so few ingredients, making almond milk is incredibly easy. This recipe from Minimalist Baker (which I recommend if you are making your own) calls for soaking almonds overnight, adding water, blending and then straining.
In addition to almonds and water, commercially-made almond milk usually contains gums as thickeners and stabilizers as well as various other additives used to fortify it with vitamins and minerals.
Overall though, it’s almonds and a little to a lot more water.
Nutritional Value of Almond Milk
Almond milk sounds like it should be really healthy. It’s made from super healthy almonds – right? But, unfortunately, if you weight the pros and cons of almond milk, it’s not quite as simple as that.
For those who can’t or don’t consume dairy or who simply want to cut down on it, almond milk is a great alternative. You can use it for baking, you can drink it straight or you can make delicious smoothies with it. You just have to know that whether you make your own or buy it from a store, almond milk is not going to have the same health benefits as eating whole almonds.
That’s because it’s strained and the pulp, which contains many of the vital nutrients, is not used. It’s also watered down and isn’t as nutritionally concentrated as whole almonds. If you have a recipe that uses 1 cup of almonds to 2 cups of water, you’ll have a higher concentration of nutrients than you would if you use 1 cup of almonds with 5 or more cups of water, but it’s all going to be diluted, nonetheless. Commercially-made almond milk is usually going to be on the higher water content side.
As a point of reference, 1 oz of whole almonds contains 6 g of protein and many vitamins and minerals2. In contrast, half a cup of our homemade almond milk contains 1.1 g of protein and the vitamin and mineral content has been watered down or stripped through the straining process. Half a cup of commercial almond milk usually contains .5 g of protein.
On the other hand, commercially fortified almond milk contains plenty of vitamins and minerals and is definitely a way to make sure that they are a regular part of your diet. It is important to note that while added vitamins and minerals are fine, additional sugar is not. Be sure and buy almond milk that specifically says unsweetened. If it doesn’t, you’re getting added sugar, which works against any health benefits that it may be providing.
How I Use Almond Milk
As I mentioned, almond milk played a major role in my starting to eat healthier. Once I learned what a green smoothie was, I was off and running. Since many smoothie recipes call for almond or some other type of non-dairy milk, I automatically started incorporating it into my diet. At this point, I primarily use almond milk for my smoothies and protein shakes, and on average, go through about 60 oz per week.
As I weigh the pros and cons of almond milk for myself, here’s where I land. Since I use the commercially-made variety, I know that while the vitamins and minerals that it’s fortified with are helpful, its nutritional value is limited. But that’s not what I use it for. I use it as a way to start my day with a huge helping of greens, other vegetables, sometimes fruit and various seeds. That’s where the nutrition is packed. The almond milk is just a vehicle for blending it all together.
I’ve tried only using water in my smoothies, but I need the little bit of thickness that the almond milk provides to make it go from just okay to something that I enjoy drinking and crave every day.
Used in this way, there is no pretense that the almond milk itself is giving me a huge nutritional boost. The fact that it’s enabling me to get in up to five different vegetables and fruit for breakfast is where its power lies.
Store Bought vs Homemade – Dollars and Sense
I’m all about using my food dollars to buy the cleanest and most nutritious ingredients possible for food that I will make myself, but when it comes to weighing the pros and cons of almond milk, I have to factor in the dollars and sense of store bought versus homemade.
Whether you’re talking about commercially-made or homemade, you do want to make sure that organic almonds are involved because nuts easily absorb pesticides even through their shells3. Keeping that in mind, I certainly can’t say that making homemade almond milk is cheaper than store bought. Given the diluted health benefits of both, I also can’t say that I think making homemade is the most effective use of those food dollars – at least for me.
Since raw organic almonds normally cost around $11.50 for a pound, and the Minimalist Baker recipe calls for 8 oz of almonds to make 40 oz of almond milk, it would cost me $8.62 to make my 60 oz that I use each week. On the other hand, organic almond milk from Sprouts costs me $3.69 for 64 oz. That’s a $5.02 difference each week between buying store bought or homemade.
While you definitely have more control over the ingredients if you make homemade, I’m actually okay with the ingredients in the organic store-bought versions. That’s especially true since most commercially-made almond milks in the U.S. no longer contain carrageenan4, which was a concern. If you try almond milk and find that you’re having stomach issues, you may want to consider making your own because most, if not all of the commercially-made versions contain gums, which can cause stomach problems in some people5.
I’m also okay with store bought almond milk because it’s one of the only highly processed foods I eat. Except for the occasional flour tortillas or tortilla chips, everything else is either minimally processed or whole foods.
Bottom Line in Weighing the Pros and Cons of Almond Milk
When weighing the pros and cons of almond milk, you need to consider how you’re using it and what you expect from it. As long as you know what it is and what it isn’t and the realities of homemade versus store bought, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that’s right for you.
There’s no doubt about it. The money saving and health benefits of taking your lunch are enormous. This is one area of your life where you can quickly see the savings and positive health impacts add up.
Budget Benefits of Taking Your Lunch
If you’re not sure whether it will really be cheaper to take your lunch, try tracking what you’re spending on eating lunch out for a month. Visa’s free Lunch Tracker app for iOS can easily help you do this. The app was developed after Visa’s 2015 Lunch Survey found that on average, Americans eat lunch out about 2 times per week and spend $20 per week or $1,043 per year on eating lunch out. Remember that’s only for eating lunch twice a week.
In contrast, those who packed a lunch or ate at home an average of 5 times per week spent $32.76 per week or $1,704 per year. That’s for 3 days more per week of lunches.
Here’s more proof of how realistic it is to take your lunch less expensively than it is to eat out. On average, I spend about $27 for 7 days of incredibly healthy lunches. That’s about $3.85 per lunch. Even if you ate the cheapest fast food possible – for around $3 per lunch – that’s still $21 per week on lunches that will without a doubt come back to bite you (pun intended) with extremely high health costs in the long run.
Health Benefits of Taking Your Lunch
Here’s a look at just some of the health benefits of taking your lunch.
You’re in control of what you eat.
You don’t spend time waiting on your food in a restaurant or going through a drive-thru. You can use the extra time instead to sit outside and enjoy your lunch in a much more healthy and relaxing way or you can even have time to take a walk or move a little after you eat.
Spending less is healthier because it causes less stress over money.
Things to Keep in Mind
There are several things to keep in mind to make taking a lunch do-able and healthy.
Batch prepare your lunches on the weekend or days off.
Be sure and take your own reusable water bottle. Going to all of the trouble of packing your lunch is diluted if you have to spend a fortune on buying a drink from a vending machine. Even water in a vending machine is expensive and comes in unhealthy plastic bottles.
If you’re not familiar with shallots, you’re going to want to make room in your pantry for this small but mighty bulb. It looks similar to an onion on the outside, but when you peel off the skin, it looks more like garlic. While it may seem like this onion cousin is going through an identity crisis, it’s very clear on its purpose – to offer a subtle flavor and plenty of nutritional benefits. In fact, it’s the nutritional benefits of shallots that have caused them to be used for centuries for their potential medicinal properties in both prevention and treatment and why they definitely deserve at least some of your attention.
What are Shallots?
Shallots belong to the Allium family, which also includes garlic, onions, leeks and chives. They’re usually found with fresh garlic in the grocery store because their internal structure is similar to that of garlic with a head made up of multiple cloves. They can range in color from brown to red, and they have a much milder flavor than either garlic or onions. Just like their other family members though, there’s no escaping the potential for eye irritation. You’re as likely to tear up when peeling or cutting a shallot as you are an onion.
Nutrients in Shallots
Shallots contain protein and fiber, but it’s their vitamin and mineral content that really stands out.
The nutritional benefits of shallots are many. Research has shown that those include antibacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties as well as possible prevention and treatment of certain blood disorders2. This means that they could hold potential for helping to prevent many inflammatory diseases as well as cancer, but the actual amounts needed to lower the risk of each needs to be studied further.2,3
How to Prepare Shallots
According to the University of Vermont’s Department of Plant and Soil Science, shallots have a sweet flavor that comes out even more when they’re cooked or roasted4. They’re often used in French and Asian cooking4 but are often called for in other types of recipes as well. Many of the nutritional benefits of shallots, such as antioxidants, are released when they’re chopped, crushed or chewed.3They’re so mild, they can just as easily be eaten raw in sauces and vinaigrettes as they can be when cooked with meat and/or vegetables. Bottom line, if you want a milder flavor than onion in your recipe, shallots usually make a good substitute.
Shallots do cost more than yellow onions, but you’re probably not going to use them as frequently either. They usually cost around $3/lb versus $1.30 – $1.50 for a 3lb bag of yellow onions. If you’re not familiar with shallots, it’s probably going to be in the best interest of your pocketbook to start by following recipes. Once you get a feel for their taste and how they can be used, you’ll probably feel more comfortable experimenting.
Mohammadi-Motlagh, H. R., Mostafaie, A., & Mansouri, K. (2011). Anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities of shallot (Allium ascalonicum) extract. Archives of medical science : AMS, 7(1), 38–44. doi:10.5114/aoms.2011.20602
Tips for Celebrating Valentine’s Day Through a Lens of Healthy Abundance, Not Lack.
Do you just do Valentine’s Day, or do you really DO Valentine’s Day? What I mean by that is do you simply go through the motions of buying the obligatory cards, candy and flowers and maybe a nice dinner out? Or do you really put thought into it and use it as a chance to let the most special people in your life know how much you truly love and appreciate them? Obviously, I’m leaning toward the second way, and I’m going to show you how Valentine’s Day on a budget and with meaning is possible. It may also turn out to be one of the healthiest days that you celebrate all year!
Valentine’s Day on a Budget
Before we go any further, it’s important to remember that when the term ‘on a budget’ is used on this site, it’s meant as a way of looking at life through a lens of abundance, not lack. It’s about being thoughtful with your valuable resources – your time, your money, your emotions and your energy – and making sure that they’re supporting you in the best, healthiest way possible. That’s where thinking about Valentine’s Day on a budget can serve us well. It’s a chance to really take stock of our riches when it comes to the people we love and who love us back and to be truly intentional about recognizing and appreciating that love.
While there’s no doubt that Valentine’s Day can be very commercial, Bean Robinson, PhD believes that special occasions like this can still be extremely meaningful for our closest relationships. She should know, she’s a licensed marriage and family therapist and Clinical Director for the Program in Human Sexuality in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Bean says that these occasions “kind of force us to think about that person and give us an opportunity or a reminder to do something special to demonstrate how we feel about them and how much we value them, love them, like them and care for them.”
Doing this is certainly good for our relationships, but it’s also good for our health. It puts our focus on what is good and positive and loving in our life and triggers the release of the so-called happiness hormones such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. These hormones can carry us a long way in balancing out the ‘business’ of everyday life.
Expressions of Love That Don’t Cost a Lot of Money
The great thing is that demonstrating our love doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Valentine’s Day on a budget is about spending energy and effort, not depleting our bank account. Here are some low-cost ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day in a way that’s meaningful and healthy for everyone involved.
Cook a nice dinner at home together
I know that the idea of taking the night off from cooking dinner and going to a fancy restaurant might be appealing, and if that’s something that is easily within your budget and there’s a place that’s meaningful for you and your love, go for it. Otherwise, having dinner at home can be just as meaningful and just as special. The key here is cooking together. Plan the meal together, buy your groceries together and cook together.
Tell the kids it’s an early bedtime night, or if they’re older, that they just need to spend some time in their room or in some other part of the house. Set the table with a nice tablecloth, cloth napkins and lit candles and you’re set. Most importantly, the TV is off, and no phones are allowed anywhere near the kitchen or where you’re eating. Talk to each other and take the chance to remember why this is the most important person in your life.
Make a card instead of buying one
I don’t know about you, but I usually feel like buying cards is a waste of a lot of money because I can never find one that’s exactly right. If I can’t find one that says what I want it to, I’d much rather use my own words and get it like I want it. If I don’t know what I want it to say, then that means I’ve got even more homework to do. Valentines are an expression of our love, and we should be able to put that into words at least one day a year. A couple of years ago, I bought pre-cut large hearts and gave some to everyone in the family. The entire pack cost no more than $4. The instructions were to write words on them that describe all of the things that we love and appreciate about each other. Those cards are some of the most meaningful I’ve ever received.
Make your own candy
I make fudge for Valentine’s in a heart-shaped mold that I bought years ago. There’s nothing healthy about the fudge, but the happy hormones released because of the effort I put into it for those I love do wonders for me mentally and physically. I’ve also bought strawberries, dipped them halfway in chocolate and ended up with a treat that looks and tastes as good as anything that you’ll buy at a store.
Buy flowers at the farmer’s market or plant seeds
If you’re lucky enough to live where you can find flowers at the farmer’s market in February, this is a great option for buying an arrangement that looks beautiful and doesn’t cost a lot of money. Some farmers with environmentally-friendly greenhouses are able to provide flowers in even the colder climates, so don’t count this out until you check. Another option is to buy a pack of flower seeds and start them in small cups so that they’re ready to be given on Valentine’s. They’ll provide enjoyment as your Valentine gets to watch them grow indoors and then they can be planted outside so that they’ll continue to give joy for a long time to come.
Plan a no-cost or low-cost outing
Putting the effort into planning a special outing or an entire day with your Valentine will pay off big in terms of how much pleasure you both will get from it. Making sure that it costs little to nothing can be a fun part of your challenge and will force you to be as creative as possible.
Lean on Your Community
There’s no doubt that you can spend a lot of money on Valentine’s Day if you want to, but that’s not what it’s about. Valentine’s Day on a budget is about putting thought and effort into showing those you love how much they mean to you. The health benefits that you and your Valentine will reap from this will last for a long time to come. Hopefully some of the ideas here will give you some inspiration. If you have other ideas, feel free to share them in the comments below.
Mushrooms are in season everywhere in the U.S. right now and are among the easiest ways to get multiple important nutrients through the food we eat. In fact, the nutritional benefits of mushrooms are immense. If they’re not a regular part of your diet, they should be!
What is a Mushroom?
Mushrooms are fungi that play a similar role to a flower or a fruit in plants1. The part that we see is the fruit.2 The “seeds” that are produced are spores that form under the mushroom’s cap. They can be spread in many ways, such as being blown by the wind or through animals feeding3. Mushrooms don’t contain chlorophyll and most get their nutrients from breaking down dead plants or non-living organic matter2.
Health Benefits of Mushrooms
It’s important to note that there are edible and inedible mushrooms. Clearly, we are talking about the edible ones here. All edible mushrooms contain protein and dietary fiber. They also have significant amounts of copper, which is important for helping the body to form red blood cells; niacin (or vitamin B3)4, which is important for the development and function of the cells in the body5; and antioxidants6 that help protect cells against free radicals, which may contribute to heart disease, cancer and other diseases7.
Importantly for people eating a plant-based diet, mushrooms have the distinction of being the only natural non-animal dietary source of Vitamin D.8 Growers can increase those levels even more by exposing them to ultraviolet light.9
Nutrients in Mushrooms
White mushrooms are among the most popular that are eaten raw or cooked in recipes. Here is their nutrition information according to the USDA.4
Protein 3.00 g/100 g
Fat .3 g/100 g
Carbohydrates 3.69 g/100 g
Dietary fiber 1.45 g/100 g
Calcium 4 mg/100 g
Copper .30 mg/100 g
Potassium 358 mg/100 g
Niacin* 2.8 mg/100 g
*While white mushrooms have some of the lowest amounts of Niacin, Enoki mushrooms have some of the highest levels at 7.03 mg/100 mg
How to Eat Mushrooms for Nutrition Retention
Mushrooms should be kept as dry as possible. In most cases, you can simply pat them with a paper towel to clean them before eating. The nutrient content noted above was for eating white mushrooms raw. The USDA says that if you’re going to cook mushrooms, the best way to retain most of their nutrients is through stir-frying or cooking in a microwave oven.4 Another study, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, found that grilling and microwaving mushrooms were the best ways of cooking to retain their nutrients.10 Bottom line – if you’re cooking mushrooms, it looks like microwaving them is best, followed by stir-frying and grilling.
Budget Benefits of Mushrooms
The Environmental Working Group includes mushrooms on its Clean 15 list, which means that you don’t necessarily need to spend the extra money to buy them organic. While you can certainly spend a fortune on specialty mushrooms if you want, white mushrooms and portabellas are much more affordable. An 8-ounce package of white mushrooms can cost anywhere between $1.50 – $2 and the same size of Baby Bellas usually cost around $2.50. As far as I’m concerned, mushrooms are a very affordable way to get a lot of nutrient bang for your buck.
Getting back on track with our health is different than when we’re just starting out. We know we can do it. We know what the benefits are and have experienced them before. And we know generally what we need to do to get back to feeling the way we want to.
Life simply happens sometimes. Instead of beating ourselves up about it, we just need to guide ourselves back to where we want to be. That’s where I am at this point. Life not only happened recently; it body slammed me. While my health and wellness habits are part of what helped get me through, they also took a beating. That’s why I need a tune-up. While everybody’s version of getting back on track is and should be different, I wanted to share what I’ll be doing over the next 21 days to get myself back to where I want to be.
I can vouch for the fact that when I drink this much each day, I simply feel better. It also makes me feel full so that I’m not snacking throughout the day. I know that the key for me is to finish my 40-ounce water bottle by the time I’m done with my morning workout. Since I’ve already had 8 ounces with my tea and 8 ounces in my smoothie, all I need is another 40 ounces throughout the day.
Cut Out Wine
This is my version of Dry January. I don’t feel like I need to cut wine out of my life completely, but after extremely stressful times, I think it is helpful to take a break and get back on track. If I drink a glass here or there, I want it to be out of enjoyment, not because I rely on it as a coping mechanism.
When I don’t make getting enough movement into my day a priority, things go south pretty quickly. I need it to feel better physically and mentally. Five days a week at the gym for an hour each day is my goal. I’ll also be working in some type of movement on the other two days. I’ve found that I need a combination of cardio to de-stress and to just get my energy going, strength training to keep my muscles strong and stretching to keep my body flexible. Since I sit at a desk all day, I’ll also be working in hourly breaks to just get up and move for a couple of minutes.
Eat a BIG Salad Every Day
This is another Dr. Goldner recommendation that goes with her suggestion of eating eight cups of raw vegetables every day. While I don’t need to get all of that through my salad, a big serving bowl full is about 5 cups – just the right amount.
Dramatically Reduce Refined, Added Sugar
When I feel my best, I’m eating virtually no refined, added sugar. The problem though is that I am without a doubt a stress eater, and when I stress, I often want chocolate (or popcorn). There are plenty of times when I have a great deal of self-control, but when I’m stressed is not usually one of them. If I know it’s going to be a stressful time or now, as I’m trying to wean myself off of too much sugar, I’ll try to keep 85 percent chocolate around or bite-sized servings of something that’s naturally sweetened. I still have to limit myself to small portions of those though because even natural sweeteners can spike blood sugar.
Write in My Gratitude Journal
Writing in my gratitude journal forces me to take a few minutes every day and appreciate my life. It’s hard to get too down or stressed when I can recognize everything that I have and the lessons that I’ve learned. I will spend a few minutes first thing each morning writing down at least five things that I’m grateful for. This will help add perspective as I start the day.
Meditate Every Morning
Since my head tends to flood with thoughts, worries and to dos the second I wake up, meditating helps to counter the “noise” with some balance. As a naturally fairly intense person, it helps me to step back and be more thoughtful for myself and others. If I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s safe to assume that it’s been a while since I’ve meditated. When I meditate regularly, I simply don’t get like that. That’s why strengthening my meditation practice will be a big part of my getting back on track over the next 21 days.
Connect More with Others
Working from home is a good fit for me because I need quiet when I’m truly thinking, and I think more creatively when I’m by myself. I honestly believe that’s my brain’s retaliation for the years of sensory overload from working in a noisy and hyper-vigilant newsroom. The challenge though is making sure that I’m not too isolated and that I make an effort to connect with others.
That’s why I’ll be pushing myself over the next three weeks to find new communities that fit my interests and to take more initiative in getting together with friends. I certainly don’t feel the need to fill up all of my spare time just being “busy,” but I know that I need more meaningful connections and the only way that’s going to happen is by putting myself “out there.”
Eat 100 Percent Plant-Based
Let me be clear. This is a personal goal for me. I do not believe that a purely plant-based diet is best for everyone. It can be a healthy choice for some, as much as I know that eating meat as a source of protein is better for others. I have eaten what I call a 98 percent plant-based diet for several years now, and I know that I simply feel better eating that way.
My two percent not counted in there is the fact that I love cheese. While I don’t eat it most of the time at home, if you put a platter of cheese and crackers or a pizza in front of me, I’m going to have trouble saying no. It’s also a way of participating in social situations without eating meat. This wouldn’t be such a big deal except that as I’ve gotten older, I simply don’t feel as good after I’ve eaten cheese. Since real health is about finding what makes us feel the best individually, I think cheese is going to have to go.
The other major factor in my decision years ago to start eating this way is that even though I’ve eaten meat for all of my life and grew up on a farm, I realized that I truly don’t want to do harm – either directly or indirectly – to another animal. That is my personal choice and viewpoint, but I do not judge those who do eat meat. My sons and husband certainly still eat meat, and I respect their decision as much as I expect them to respect mine. When I buy meat for my family however, I do try to buy it from farmers that I know at the farmer’s market so that I know that it was raised in the most humane way possible.
Have More Fun
There’s no doubt about it. As I’m getting back on track, I need to get more genuine fun into my life. I love to work and that’s an integral part of who I am, but it certainly can’t be everything. I’m also very good at handling crisis situations – whether they’re my own, my family’s or someone else’s – but when they’re done, it’s hard for me to remember what I’m supposed to do during regular times. Having fun should be a consistent part of the regular times.
These are the 10 things that I’m tackling for myself over the next 21 days. If you decide that you need a reset as well, maybe my challenge will get you started in thinking about how you feel and what you need to get yourself back on track. If you develop your own list, feel free to share it in the comments below or through social media.