The Healing Power of Food

A Doctor’s Journey from Disease to Health.

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.

Photo of different types of greens on grocery store shelf that serve as healing foods
Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels
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How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

15 Tips for Keeping Costs Low and Nutritional Value High.

When it comes to eating healthy on a budget, let’s get one thing straight from the beginning. It’s not about clipping coupons. Yes, there is some of that, but in general, that isn’t the key to success when it comes to eating healthy in a way that fits your budget. If you’re truly serious about wanting to eat healthier but you need or want to keep costs low, it is possible, but you may have to rethink not only what you eat, but how you eat. As someone who has always kept my family’s food budget low, even with different dietary needs; has been caught by many of the “low-cost” food traps out there; and has managed to figure out how to keep costs low and nutritional value high, I’m happy to share these tips with you.  

photos of Robyn Mooring cooking and of a homemade steak bowl as an example of how to cook healthy on a budget

My Family’s Food Budget

First, in the spirit of transparency, I want to share what my family’s food budget is with you. Overall, we currently keep our food expenses to the USDA’s Low-Cost monthly food budget of $456 for my husband and I and about $300 a month for my 15-year-old still growing, eat everything in the house son. His cost is between the Low- and Moderate-Cost budgets. 

That’s a total food budget of $756 a month for my husband and I to eat healthy, nutritious food and for my son to eat like a growing, athletic, ravenous teenager with somewhat healthy eating habits. A family of four with very young children should cost about the same on the Low-Cost budget and about $125 more a month with slightly older children. (But not teenage boys. They are different beasts altogether.)

Now, onto my tips for how we do this…

Photos of fruits and vegetables and of a receipt lying on top of a bag of groceries as examples of eating healthy on a budget.

Develop a Budget and Stick with It

First and foremost, you need to know what your food budget is for the month. 

How to do this

  1. Do this as part of developing a general budget that takes into account all other fixed and discretionary expenses.
  2. To get a good idea of what to expect your food budget to realistically be, you can use the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels for 2021 as a guide. 
  3. Consider your food budget as an exercise in abundance, not lack. It’s a tool that allows you to take control of your health and your finances, do the things that you want to do and make sure that the way you’re spending your money aligns with your values.
  4. Look at your food budget as both an adjective and a verb. While budget as an adjective means inexpensive, budget as a verb means that you’re allowing for a specific amount of money to go toward something. This is a big difference in meaning, and I look at budgeting for food as a combination of the two. 

Change Your Mindset

Unless you have unlimited funds to put toward your food, there is going to be a trade-off. Eating healthy on a budget is going to require some time, effort and planning.

How to do this

  1. Decide that putting your food dollars toward healthy options is a priority. 
  2. Recognize that pre-prepared and ultra-processed food is going to be the exception rather than the rule. Your grocery cart and bags are going to be filled with healthy ingredients, not the snacks or meals that you’re going to eat in their final form.

Cook at Home 

One of the easiest ways to eat healthy on a budget is to cook at home the majority of the time. The pandemic forced this on many people, but the pull of the convenience of eating out can easily creep back into our routines. Cooking at home gives you more control over the food that you eat, and it simply costs less. 

How to do this

  1. Don’t eat out more than once a week. ***This is being liberal. I strongly recommend no more than twice a month.
  2. Cook from whole foods as much as possible. While ultra-processed food is often cheaper than whole foods, the effects that it has on our health carry a heavy price both for the short- and long-term. In many cases, you also get more servings and uses from starting with whole foods than you do with ultra-processed food. This ends up costing less in the long run. 
  3. Batch cook. Make most of your meals for the week in one or two cooking sessions. 
  4. Make homemade snacks. Rather than spend $7-$10 a week or more on chips, snack cakes and other packaged snacks, use that money or less to make homemade granola or protein bars or any of the other snack ideas here.
  5. Make ingredients such as seasoning mixessauces and soups from scratch. 
  6. Make cooking a family affair. Get the entire family involved, and it becomes more of a fun activity than a chore.
  7. Find 2-3 healthy recipe websites that reliably offer plenty of options that fit your family’s needs. Check out my suggestions for getting started here

Plan Meals

Meal planning is one of the critical first steps to getting your health and food budget under control. I go into much more detail on why and how you should do this as well as great tools to help you along the way, but here are some quick tips to get you started. 

How to do this

  1. Plan your meals for the entire week or even the month. 
  2. Do this with your calendar so that you know which nights will be busier and on which nights you’ll have more time. 
  3. Include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks. 
  4. Plan your meals around the sales being offered at your grocery store. Most stores offer a weekly online sales circular, as well as some type of benefits program with special discounts for people who sign up. Use the deals on meat, produce and canned or frozen vegetables to plan your meals. 

Plan for How to Use Leftover Ingredients

Planning for how to use leftover ingredients goes hand in hand with planning your meals.

How to do this

  1. If you know that you’re cooking a dish that only uses half of a can of diced tomatoes, be sure and plan to fix another recipe that uses the other half. Or double your recipe and freeze it for another week.
  2. Mapping out what you’re eating for the entire week allows you to know where leftover ingredients can be used for another dish. 
Photo of a woman's hand typing in a grocery list on her phone while standing in front of the refrigerator as an example of how to eat healthy on a budget.

Make a Shopping List

Making a shopping list will keep you focused in the store or at the farmers’ market. It will keep you from buying things that you don’t need as well as make sure that you get everything that you do. Let’s face it, when it comes time to cook, it’s much easier to get motivated to do it if you know that you have everything you need on hand as opposed to having to go to the store first.

How to do this

  1. Once you’ve planned your meals, make sure that you have every ingredient that you’ll need. If you don’t, add them to your shopping list. 
  2. Do one larger shopping trip a month where you stock up on staples based on a list of the standard items that you use. Feel free to access my free Food Inventory and Shopping List template here.
  3. Have a general idea of the price of each item before you shop. You can keep a record of it in your shopping list so that it’s always there for you to reference. Knowing the prices gives you an idea of how much the entire trip will cost ahead of time. If you see that it’s going over your budget, you can make adjustments before you even enter the store. 

Buy in Bulk

Items that are good for buying in bulk when you’re eating healthy on a budget include the following. 

  • Whole grains (oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa)
  • Legumes
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Healthy flours
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Know What to Buy Organic

While it’s good to buy organic as much as possible, it may not always make the most sense financially. That’s why it’s important to know which produce is and isn’t the most heavily sprayed with chemicals. 

How to do this

  1. The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List helps to take the guess work out of trying to figure what’s worth the extra cost of organic. If it’s on the list, buy organic.  
  2. On the flip side, the Clean 15 List lets you know which conventionally grown produce is probably okay to eat.

Reduce the Amount of Meat That You Eat

If you eat meat, chances are that you could and should reduce the amount that you eat. This is both for financial reasons and for your health. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating 3.5 to 4 ounces of meat, poultry and eggs a day. That is not for every meal. That is a day. Or you can look at it as 26 ounces a week for a 2,000 calorie a day healthy eating pattern. Whichever way you look at it, you could probably do with a lot less meat, which in turn, will benefit your bank account. If you need suggestions for how to prepare more plant-based meals, I offer a look at what I consider to be the best vegan recipe blogs and websites here.

How to do this

  1. If you currently eat meat 2-3 meals a day, cut back to one. 
  2. If you currently eat meat every day, have 3 days a week that are meatless. 
  3. Eat more legumes.
  4. Eat high-protein pasta made from legumes such as lentil, edamame and mung bean. 
  5. Use the money that you save to buy meat that has been sustainably and humanely raised. 

Eat with the Seasons

Whether you buy your food from the farmers’ market or the grocery store, eating what’s in season is going to be the least expensive way to buy fresh produce. If you want to go more in-depth on why this is so important and how to do it, be sure and read my post on eating seasonally

How to do this

  1. Look at the sales ads for your grocery store. The foods that are in season will usually be on sale or at least will be cheaper than other produce. 
  2. Go to the farmers’ market. Everything there is in season. It’s also important to learn which of the vendors grow their items conventionally and which are only organic. Again, not everything has to be organic. 

Keep it Simple

Our taste buds have become so accustomed to artificial and intense flavors that it’s easy to think of a simply prepared meat, vegetable and whole grain meal as being bland. It’s not though! You don’t have to use a bunch of exotic ingredients or artificial flavors to make a meal taste delicious. Keep it simple – the way nature intended it, and your taste buds will adjust. 

How to do this

  1. Learn to use spices to flavor your food. 
  2. Learn to grow and use herbs to flavor your food. 

Buy Frozen

The term “frozen food” takes on a whole new meaning when we’re talking about eating healthy on a budget. In this sense, you’re going to bypass the frozen “TV dinners” and head straight for the good stuff.  

How to do this

  1. Buy frozen produce. While buying fresh produce seems like it would be far superior to frozen, there’s probably not as much difference in the nutritional value as you may think. Dietician Kim Barrier says that fresh fruits and vegetables start losing some of their nutrients once picked, so the longer they’re in transport to the grocery and/or sit in the produce section the more they lose. “Frozen fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are picked at peak season and immediately processed, which locks in the nutrients.”  In addition to being less expensive, frozen produce can also be more accessible than fresh. 
  2. Buy meat that’s already frozen. This is also often cheaper than buying fresh. 
Photo of leftover food in a container, ready to be frozen.

Freeze Leftovers and Use Them

Wasted food is wasted money.  Freezing leftovers is by far one of the easiest ways to eat healthy on a budget. 

How to do this

  1. Freeze leftovers in individual portion sizes so that you only thaw what you need. 
  2. Have one week a month where you eat frozen leftovers at least once or twice. This will keep your freezer cleaned out and give you one or two “free” meals at the same time. 

Buy Generic or Store Brand

If you’re eating healthier, you’re automatically eliminating most ultra-processed foods. That means that what you’re buying from a store is primarily whole foods. In these cases, you’re usually not going to notice a taste difference if you buy generic or a store brand. 

How to do this

  1. Look for whether the store offers organic options for store brand items where that’s needed. 
  2. Test store brand items out in small quantities before stocking up on them to make sure that you’re satisfied with the taste and quality. 

Use Coupons

See how far down the list this is when it comes to eating healthy on a budget? That’s because, for the most part, coupons are for ultra-processed food. 

How to do this

  1. Eliminating all ultra-processed food can be difficult. For those few items that you do buy in this category, keep an eye out for coupons.
  2. Use coupons to buy quality household products made with healthier ingredients and materials. 

Bottom Line on Eating Healthy on a Budget

While you may not be able to incorporate all of these tips, implementing even a few of them will go a long way toward making eating healthy on a budget a possibility. The suggestions here were intended to give a quick and easy high-level glimpse at how to do each of these things. For many of them, I go into more depth and detail in other posts. Be sure and check those out by clicking on the associated links included throughout this post. 


Morning Routine Ideas for Getting the Day Started Right

The Morning Routine That Has Served Me Best.

I am a firm believer in the power of a morning routine. How we start the day has a huge impact on how the rest of the day will go. If we keep hitting the snooze button, wake up at the last possible second, rush to get dressed and get the kids off to school, skip breakfast, gulp down a cup of coffee and barely get to work on time, the chances that we’re going to be our best for the day are slim. On the other hand, waking up early enough to start the day in an intentional way stands a much better chance of setting us up for success as well as boosting our overall health and wellness. In this article, I’m looking at what a morning routine is, why it’s important and some of my tried-and-true morning routine ideas for getting the day started off right. 

Photos of a woman doing yoga and of journals with a colored pencil on them as examples of morning routine ideas.

What is a Morning Routine?

By definition, a routine is regularly doing things in a fixed order, usually at a particular time. A morning routine is any type of routine that happens as you’re starting your day – whether that day begins at 8am or 11pm for shift workers. According to Northwestern Medicine, “routines offer a way to promote health and wellness through structure and organization.” While we don’t want to have every minute of our day scheduled, it is beneficial to have some structure, otherwise it’s easy to be unorganized, distracted and not accomplish the things that we want to. 

While there can be many different views on what a morning routine is, I look at it as what I do before my workday starts. It is what helps to get me in the right place physically and mentally for the day ahead. Depending on your stage in life and whether you work from home or have a commute, a morning routine can take 30 minutes or two hours. It’s whatever works best for you. Some days, you may have to adjust it a bit, but for the most part, your morning routine is how you regularly start the day. 

Photo of a calendar with exercise written on it as an example of morning routine ideas.

Morning Routine Ideas

If you listen to interviews with some of the world’s most successful people, you’ll find that most rely on a morning routine of some type. Even before I learned this, it was simply something that came naturally to me. I knew that I felt better when I started my day in a more structured way and that I felt worse when I didn’t. It wasn’t too hard to figure out which I preferred. Here are some morning routine ideas that I can highly recommend. 

Set your alarm

If you have to be somewhere at a set time, get kids off to school or have any other morning obligations, you’re probably going to need to set an alarm in order to get your morning routine in. This may mean moving your bedtime forward a bit so that you get the sleep you need, but I can promise that this habit will be worth it. After you’ve conditioned your body to your new routine, setting an alarm may not even be necessary. 

Write in a gratitude journal

This doesn’t have to take long. Just list 5-10 things, people or experiences that you’re grateful for. An article in Greater Good Magazine cites gratitude expert Robert Emmons as saying that gratitude affirms “that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.” This can be powerful if we’re struggling to see past our own problems or are feeling down or stressed. 

Write in a free writing journal or do a brain dump

A free writing journal gives us a chance to reflect on our experiences or anything that we’re feeling. A brain dump offers the opportunity to clear mental space by getting all the thoughts running through our mind onto a piece of paper. Both exercises help to acknowledge and process extraneous thoughts and feelings that may be causing us anxiety or taking up mental energy. 

Do some kind of exercise or movement

While at least 150 minutes a week is what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends, any amount is going to give you some health benefits. Even if you usually get your main exercise in during the afternoon, stretching or moving your body in some way in the morning will help to wake you up and get your body going after a night of sleeping. 

Read

If finding time to read is tough, carving out a few minutes in the morning can be a relaxing way to ease into the day. 

Get dressed for the day

While this may be a bit obvious, I include it as part of a morning routine because that makes it an intentional activity that I have to set aside time to do as part of my preparation for the day. If I don’t look at it in that way, I rush through the process, already feeling frazzled and as if I should be doing something else.

Fix breakfast

If you don’t take the time to fix breakfast for yourself because you simply don’t need it, then skip this. If you don’t fix breakfast for yourself because you don’t think you have time, then making it part of your morning routine will do wonders for your health and your pocketbook. Even if you don’t have time to eat it before you leave the house, take something with you to eat on the way or when you arrive at work.

Update your budget

What?? You might ask if you haven’t read my post on Creating a Budget for a Healthier You. As I mention there, taking 5 minutes to update your budget (what used to be known as balancing your checkbook) every day makes it so that it’s not an overwhelming task at one time. It also helps to guide your decisions throughout the day. 

Read or watch local news

Keeping on top of what’s happening in your local community is just as important as keeping up with national and international news. With all of the online resources available these days, it’s fairly easy to stay on top of national news. Local news, on the other hand, is easy to lose sight of. Setting aside a few minutes each morning to do this will keep you on top of what is happening in your own backyard.

Reattach to work

I love this one! If we’re successfully detaching from work at the end of the day, it only stands to reason that reattaching at the beginning of the day would make sense. Researchers found that reattaching, or rebuilding a mental connection to work, is important for staying engaged and focused during the day. 

This article in Greater Good Magazine suggests that in preparation for your workday, you ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Why does the work I do matter to me? How does my work impact the lives of others?
  2. Who are the people—both at work and in my personal life—who support me and my professional success?
  3. What would I like to focus on today?

While you won’t be able to fit all of the above ideas into your morning routine, I recommend picking 2-4 that resonate with you and see how they work. 

Photo of pen on top of pink journal.

The Morning Routine That Has Served Me Best

Depending on what phase of life you’re in, you’ll probably need to switch up your morning routine to accommodate your other obligations. You may also need to adjust the time that you wake up. When my boys were younger, having a little quiet time to myself was so important to me that I woke up at 5am just to fit it in. While that was definitely early, it would have been much harder on me not to fit it in at all. Now that I don’t have to do everything for my one son still at home, I get to sleep until 5:45am or 6am. 

Here’s a look at the most recent version of my morning routine that has served me best. 

5:45am = wake-up and get dressed in workout clothes

6 – 6:15am = meditation

6:15 – 6:30am = journaling

6:30 – 7:15am = exercise/stretching and listen to local and national news

7:15 – 7:45am = get dressed/fix breakfast

7:45 – 8am = eat breakfast, update budget, reattach for work

8am = start work

** This has been my best pandemic routine. In “normal” times, I would allow for the five-minute drive to and from the gym.

Clearly, life happens. If I need to go for a stretch of letting myself sleep a little later, I do. But if I let myself go for long periods of time without making room for my morning routine, I definitely start feeling off and know that I need to get back on track.

Bottom Line on Morning Routines

The point in all of this has been to give you plenty of morning routine ideas to choose from that might work for you. The key is being realistic about the kind of time that you have or are willing to make in the mornings to fit it in. Even if you can only sit quietly and then exercise for a few minutes, those are things that will help you start the day feeling better than if you had slept late and rushed out the door.

Do you have a morning routine? If so, let us know in the comments what it is so that we can all get ideas.


Dos and Don’ts for Tracking Food

How I Approach Tracking Food in a Healthy Way.

My husband recently had a blood pressure scare, and jokingly remarked that he didn’t have high blood pressure until he went to the doctor. The point obviously is that ignorance can be bliss… until it’s not. I look at tracking food the same way. Before I really started eating healthier, I honestly thought that I was generally doing okay in that area. I just didn’t feel good most of the time, and I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t until I took a good look at what I was actually putting into my body, that I realized I needed to add more of the truly good stuff. In other words, more green and brightly colored vegetables and fewer simple carbs with not much nutritional value. 

I don’t think that we necessarily need to get a report on everything that we eat or its nutritional value, but it is good to have a realistic, general idea of that information. That’s why I want to share with you the dos and don’ts for tracking food and how I approach it in a healthy way. 

Photo of avocado and spinach on toast as an example of tracking food in a healthy way

What is Meant by Tracking Food?

Whether you call it tracking food or keeping a food diary, the concept is the same. It’s where you keep a detailed account of what you eat, when you eat and ideally, how you feel when you eat. It can be done as simply as using pen and paper or by going high-tech with an app. I strongly recommend an app (see my recommendations below) because they’re extremely easy to use, and they give you so much nutrition information – for free! 

Photo of grilled salmon and broccoli and carrots as an example of tracking food.

Dos

If you’re trying to determine whether tracking food is right for you, here are a few positive ways to approach it. 

  1. Do track food if you want or need to lose weight and can’t figure out why you’re not. According to this article in the Harvard Health Blog, a food diary “can help you understand your eating habits and patterns and help you identify the foods – good and not-so-good – you eat on a regular basis.” This goes back to my husband’s blood pressure. While he knew it probably wasn’t perfect, he didn’t think it was that bad. Until he had the data to show him otherwise. Thinking that a small cookie a day filled with refined sugar couldn’t possibly add that many calories is one thing. Seeing the number of calories and simple carbs it actually adds each week is quite another. 
  2. Do track food if you’re feeling low on energy or simply aren’t feeling as healthy as you want to and you can’t figure out why. This helps you to determine what the nutritional value is in the food that you’re eating. If you aren’t getting enough protein, if you’re getting too much saturated fat or if you’re not getting enough fiber, you’re simply not going to feel your best. 
  3. Do track food to get a gauge of the general nutrition value in what you’re eating. This includes both macro- and micronutrients. Macronutrients are the nutrients that you use the most of such carbohydrates, fat and protein. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. Tracking these when you’re feeling perfectly fine is a good way to understand what levels work well for you. Then, if you’re ever not feeling that way, you’ll know which nutrients may have gotten off balance. 
Photo of a variety of vegetables spread out in dishes across a table.

Don’ts

On the flip side of those reasons, there are a couple of things that you don’t want to do when you’re tracking food. 

  1. Don’t track food for more than a month. Unless there is a doctor recommended reason for doing it longer, tracking your food for more than a month simply isn’t practical. More than likely, you’re not going to keep up with it. Even if you do manage to track it every day, you’re probably not going to look back at it so that it does you any good. You should have a pretty clear idea of what you eat and how you eat after a couple of weeks to a month, so there’s no need in adding anything else long term to your already full list of things to do. If you ever eat something that’s vastly different that you want to add to your diet on a regular basis, you can always look it up on a tracking app on a case-by-case basis to see how it fits in. 
  2. Don’t obsess over tracking food. Do not let tracking food take over your life. Unless there is a true health reason for why you need to keep constant track of certain nutrients, use tracking as a way to get a general idea of how you’re eating and then move on. 

Resources

Here are the two apps for tracking food that I highly recommend. 

  1. Myfitnesspal – The basic free version of this app is all that I have ever used. It has plenty of functionality and is easy to navigate. 

Pro: It groups the food you enter with the appropriate meal or snack. That way, you can keep up with when you’re eating what. It also provides a space for notes, which gives you a place to reflect not only on what you’re eating but why you’re eating it. 

Con: It only tracks macronutrients. 

  • Cronometer – The free version of this app is so helpful; I can’t imagine what is included in the paid versions. Since I’ve become much more interested in my micronutrients, this is the one I use when I track my food. 

Pro: It tracks micro- and macronutrients all in the free version. It also provides a space for notes.

Con: It lets you timestamp your entries, but it doesn’t group your foods according to meals or snacks. 

Bottom Line on Tracking Food

The bottom line on tracking food is that it’s about bringing awareness to your eating habits. This is huge when it comes to making lifestyle changes that will stick – especially if you’re stuck or are unsure of where to start. If you’ve never tracked your food before, I suggest starting with one of the apps recommended above. Be sure and keep notes about what you’re feeling as you eat and how you feel afterward. Once you’re able to get a true picture of how you eat and how food makes you feel, you’ll be well on your way to making lasting change. 


How to Power Nap Like a Pro

Find Out How Long a Power Nap Really Is.

I am a power napper. There, I said it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. In fact, I’ll scream it from the rooftop if I need to. The world needs more power nappers!! It’s long been one of my survival tools, but since I started living a healthier lifestyle, I consider it as much a part of my wellness routine as exercise and what I eat. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to power nap but thought you couldn’t, I’m going to fill you in on how long a power nap really is and how to do it.  

Two photos of women napping as an example of how to power nap

What is a Power Nap?

In order to understand what a power nap is, it may first be easier to look at what it isn’t. A power nap is not an hours-long deep sleep that you occasionally take in the afternoon when you’ve stayed up too late the night before. It also doesn’t leave you feeling groggy or discombobulated. Far from it. 

A power nap lasts less than 30 minutes and leaves you feeling energized and rested. Multiple studies back this up1,2,3 and even show that getting in a few minutes of stage 2 sleep is the most beneficial in improving alertness and performance1. According to this article published by the University of Michigan Health System, stage 1 sleep involves light sleep and usually lasts less than 10 minutes. In stage 2 sleep, your muscles become more relaxed and you may begin to have slow-wave brain activity4. For me, between 15-20 minutes is ideal for giving my brain, body and eyes a much-needed break.

Photo of words that say "Take a nap."
Photo by Eva Elijas from Pexels

How to Power Nap

If sleeping for a short period of time seems impossible to you, you may be right. Power napping isn’t for everyone. Some people do get into too deep of a sleep or take too long to go to sleep in the first place. If that’s you, and you’ve tried power napping before, don’t force it. Accept the fact that you’re simply not a power napper and move on. 

On the other hand, if you consistently find yourself reaching for mid-afternoon caffeine or something sweet just to give you energy, I highly recommend trying the more natural approach of learning how to power nap. You’ll notice that I said, “learn how to power nap.” Yes, power napping is a routine or habit that usually has to be learned. The following steps will show you how. 

Find the right time

If you work on an 8-5pm or 9-5pm schedule, you’re probably familiar with the afternoon energy slump or the “post-lunch dip1.” If you’re a shift worker, you have the equivalent, it’s just at a different time. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on those who work 8-5pm. 

Assuming that you’ll usually need to attach your nap to your lunch break, I suggest shooting for some time between 12:30-3pm for your nap. If you take it after 3pm, it could disrupt your regular sleep at night. 

12:30-3pm is also when the physical cues that I need a nap kick in. These cues aren’t easy to miss. They’re as obvious as my eyelids starting to droop or me getting really grouchy. There are also more subtle cues such as staring at my computer and not really registering what I’m reading or writing. If I’m interacting with others, I find it hard to concentrate on what they’re saying or to remember what was said. 

If I push through and wait until after 3pm to try to nap, I’m usually past the point where I can. My mind simply won’t shut down. If I can catch a window around 1pm when I begin noticing these things starting to happen, my brain is more than ready to stop for a while, and sleep comes quickly. 

The main thing when determining when the right time is to nap is that it should be about the same every day. It can certainly change if needed, but for the most part, you’ll need to teach your body that this is the time to shut down for a bit. 

Find the right location

Finding the right location is just as important to learning how to power nap as finding the right time. While it doesn’t have to be completely dark, you don’t want to have a light shining in your face. I usually find that having the blinds open on the windows is fine and allows enough light in to signal to my body that it isn’t night and that I don’t need to go into a deep sleep.  

You’ll also want to be in a fairly quiet place if possible. If you work outside the home, that means closing the door to your office if you have one or being in your car. Trust me, a car is a perfectly fine place to nap. 

Get comfortable

Getting comfortable is key when it comes to power napping. Once you get to be a pro, comfort takes a back seat to simply making sure that you get it in, but when you’re beginning, there are a couple of elements to have in place. These include something soft(ish) to lie on and a pillow or something soft for your head. 

If you’re working from home, lying on your bed may be an option. If you find that you tend to sleep too deeply there, just lie on your couch. Going to your car is also an option if you don’t have a soft surface to lie on at work. You can easily lay the seat back and be perfectly fine. Having a pillow, scarf, coat or something soft for your head makes it easier to get comfortable and elevates it to a more natural sleeping position.

If I’m at home, I like to have a blanket to put over me, even if it’s in the summer. It simply feels more comfortable. 

Eliminate interruptions

The whole point in a power nap is to take a few minutes for yourself in the middle of the day to recharge. It’s hard to do that if your phone is ringing, buzzing or in any way letting you know that the rest of the world needs your attention during that time. That’s why I always turn on the “Do Not Disturb” function on my phone just before I’m lying down. While my family’s calls can get through during that time if it’s urgent, they also know that it had better be urgent. 

That leads us to the second step in eliminating interruptions. Letting people who really need to know generally when you will be out of touch for a few minutes. That doesn’t mean that you have to announce it to the world that you’re taking a nap, but if you have a usual time that you’re shooting for, just let those who absolutely need to know that you won’t be available during that time. With most of my family doing school and working from home right now, I time when I lie down with when my son is in class. I also text my husband to let him know so that he doesn’t come downstairs while I’m lying on the couch. 

Set an alarm

Setting an alarm is crucial for conditioning your body to the power nap. As you’re just starting out, I suggest setting it for five minutes before you need to be back on task or for no longer than 30 minutes – whichever is sooner. That gives you time to wake up and get back to wherever you need to be. After you’ve become a power napping expert, you’ll probably find that you don’t need to set your alarm. Your body will simply know when it’s been 15-30 minutes. 

Focus on breathing

If you’re finding it hard to shut off your thoughts after about 30 seconds, focus on your breathing. Count to four as you breathe in, hold it for a second and then count to four as you breathe out. That should take the focus off your thoughts and put you in a good place for sleep to find you quickly. 

Photo of woman sleeping with her head down on a table in front of her computer as an example of how to power nap
Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

Practice

Like many of the other things that we do, learning how to power nap takes practice. You are not going to be successful at it if you only do it once or twice a month. It needs to become part of your regular routine. Yes, your body may become reliant on your nap, but you can always fall back on caffeine if you can’t get it in and you’re needing a quick pick me up. In this case though, the caffeine will be a mid-day rarity as opposed to something that you have to have to get through every day. 

It’s also important to note that once you’ve practiced enough and conditioned your body to power nap, you’ll be able to do it pretty much anywhere at anytime if needed. Now that’s a useful skill to have!

Bottom Line on Learning How to Power Nap

The bottom line on learning how to power nap is that it’s a free tool that you can use to be as productive and sharp as possible in a natural way. Take it from a power napping pro, it’s a skill that is possible to learn and could make the difference between feeling like you’re just getting through the day and being the best that you can be. I know which of the two that I highly recommend. 

Sources

  1. Hayashi M, Motoyoshi N, Hori T. Recuperative power of a short daytime nap with or without stage 2 sleep. Sleep. 2005 Jul;28(7):829-36. PMID: 16124661. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16124661/
  2. McDevitt EA, Sattari N, Duggan KA, Cellini N, Whitehurst LN, Perera C, Reihanabad N, Granados S, Hernandez L, Mednick SC. The impact of frequent napping and nap practice on sleep-dependent memory in humans. Sci Rep. 2018 Oct 10;8(1):15053. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-33209-0. PMID: 30305652; PMCID: PMC6180010. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30305652/
  3. Dhand R, Sohal H. Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults. Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2006 Nov;12(6):379-82. doi: 10.1097/01.mcp.0000245703.92311.d0. PMID: 17053484. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17053484/
  4. University of Michigan Health System. Stages of Sleephttps://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw48331


How to Organize Bills for Less Stress

Tips to save money, time and your health by organizing your bill tracking and payment system.

I will fully admit that the entire process of paying bills is something that I used to dread. Even when I knew there was enough money in the bank to cover everything, it was stressful. That’s in large part because I was so disorganized in my approach to the practice. As a result, paper clutter piled up, I would end “bill paying night” in a horrible mood, and there were usually late payments that had to be factored in. As I learned how to get my financial house in order, I realized that developing a budget was only part of the process. I also had to get organized. It is from my many years of doing this that I offer these tips on how to organize bills for less stress. I truly hope they help you as much as they have me. 

Photo of woman learning how to organize bills for less stress and photo of past due bills as an example for why we need to organize bills.

Coordinate Your Billing System with Your Budget

Ideally, your billing system should be directly tied to your monthly budgets. While you can organize bills effectively without doing that (see how below), coordinating your billing system with your budget makes it much simpler. If you don’t currently develop monthly budgets, be sure and check out  Creating a Budget for a Healthier You. In that post, I walk through how to take control of your finances by creating an attitude of abundance.

To summarize though, budgets can be developed by using nothing more than a pen and paper or a spreadsheet. You can also use an app or software if you want to go more high-tech. The bottom line is that every expense or categories of expenses should be a separate item in your budget. This includes expenses that are recurring, anticipated but periodic, and unexpected. They should be included in the monthly budget in which the bill will be paid.

Electronic versions of your monthly budgets should be kept in a Budget and Billing folder on your computer. Within that, create a folder for the year and then another called “Budgets.” That’s where your monthly budgets should live in a spreadsheet. 

Photo of how to organize personal billing system

If you prefer to store your Budget and Billing information in the cloud, I can highly recommend Airtable. Google, Apple, Dropbox or Box accounts are other options as well. 

Create an Electronic Bills and Receipts Folder

Whether you store your documents on your computer or in the cloud, you’ll want to create a Bills and Receipts folder within your Budget and Billing folder. Within that, create a folder for each month and then create folders by business or category. 

Photo of how to create a personal bills and receipts tracking system

Create a Physical Bills and Receipts Folder

For bills that aren’t electronic and come through the mail, create files in your personal physical file system with at least the following files for each year. Once the bill has been paid, file the bill here. These are examples of the most common bills that probably wouldn’t have the option for automation or to be electronic:

  • Insurance
  • Taxes (property and car registration)
  • Medical bills
  • Clothing or other retail credit cards
Image of calendar page with two "bill paying days" circled.
Photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

Set Two “Bill Paying” Days During the Month

In most cases, your paycheck cycle is going to be every two weeks or once a month. Set two days to pay bills during the month that are each close to one of the days when you get paid. For example, if you get paid on the 15th and the 30th, your bill paying days would be on the 1st and the 16th. On the 1st, you would pay all bills that are due between that date and the 15th. On the 16th, you would pay all bills that are due between then and the 30th.  If you get paid once a month, you’ll still want to set aside two bill paying days. One should be in the middle of the month and the other at the end/beginning of the month. This will make sure that everything is paid on time. 

In your monthly budgets, mark whatever your bill paying dates are in parenthesis by each expense. That way, you’ll know just by looking which bills get paid when. It may even be helpful to add up all of the expenses for each bill paying date so that you know how much you need to have in your account at those times. 

Open and File Bills Immediately

For paper bills that come through the mail, open them immediately and have two baskets or folders near where you open your mail. They should be marked 1 or 16 or whatever your bill paying dates are. Place the bills in the appropriate basket or folder. 

For electronic or paperless bills that you don’t have set up with automatic payments, set a few minutes every day for filing the bill notices that come through email into your Bills and Receipts folder on your computer. I do this in my five minutes set aside for reconciling my budget every day. Having this step as part of your daily routine makes it so you don’t have to go back and search for the bills in your email later. 

Even for bills that you do have set up with automatic payments, you may still want to do this so that it’s easy to go back and find a record of the bill at a later point. 

Automate Payments

In order to truly take some of the stress off of yourself for how to organize your bills and to save money on late fees, you’ll want to automate as many recurring payments as possible. In a perfect world, these should be set for a couple of days before they are due. If you don’t want to give multiple companies access to your money, another good option for automating bill payments is to use the BillPay function through your bank. This allows you to pay recurring or one-time bills online. Either way that you do it, I strongly suggest setting up recurring payments for any regular bills. It makes keeping up with them an organizational matter and not a determinant of whether they get paid on time or not. Remember, late payments often result in unnecessary extra fees, which is something you definitely want to avoid. 

Get Rid of As Much Paper as Possible

While there are some documents where a paper copy is needed, for the most part, you’ll want to get rid of as much paper as possible. That means opting for paperless statements or bills whenever you’re given the option. Bank statements are among my favorite examples for this because we can access our accounts online any time. That’s what we’re using for an accurate reflection of our accounts, not a paper statement that’s mailed once a month. Paper statements simply clutter up our space and eventually require shredding. That’s too much stress, time and effort for me. As an added bonus, many companies are willing to give you a discount or waive fees if you go paperless. 

If you don’t know how to select paperless bank statements, you can usually do it through your main account page online. It may say something like “statement options” or “document center.” If you don’t see it in either of those places, look in your account settings. 

If you really need to regularly look at your statements and don’t want to have to go into your account to access them every time, you can easily download them and store them on your computer or in the cloud for easy access. 

Keep a Spreadsheet for Recurring Payments

This is the organizational option that I mentioned earlier if you’re not keeping a regular budget. Keeping track in a spreadsheet of what you know needs to be paid on a monthly basis and when it will be paid will at least keep you on top of your most significant known expenses. I suggest the following pre-populated format. 

  • Each month should have its own tab.
  • Rows should be the name of the company or type of company to which payment is due. 
  • Each of the following should get its own column:
  1. Projected Payment Date. This is the date that you expect the payment to be made. This should be one of your two bill paying days. 
  2. Automatic or manual payment. Indicate whether you have the bill set up for automatic payments or if you need to pay it yourself. 
  3. Actual Payment Date. This should be noted after the payment has been made. 
  4. Website link for accessing bills or payments if applicable. 

Bottom Line

The bottom line for how to organize bills is that having a system won’t make sure that there’s enough money in the bank to cover what you owe. That’s still up to you. It will though help to save time and money and lessen stress, which in turn will do wonders for your long-term health and wellness.  


The Benefits of Setting Goals

5 Reasons for Why Setting Goals Is an Inspiring Way to Start the Year.

Do you scoff at the thought of making New Year’s resolutions or do you embrace the idea of setting expectations for yourself for the year to come? Whether we call them resolutions or goals, I absolutely fall into the latter category. I am a firm believer in the benefits of setting goals, and I want to share with you my top 5 reasons for why setting them is an inspiring way to start the year or for hitting reset at any time when it comes to your health and overall wellbeing. 

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.

What are Goals?

Before we get into the benefits of setting goals, it’s important to understand what they are in the first place. While there are many useful definitions and systems out there that go into this more in-depth, the way that I look at goals is that they are specific and measurable milestones that help you to work toward your overall vision for your life. In other words, goals are statements of what you want to achieve. 

The Benefits of Setting Goals

While recognizing that everyone’s definition of achievement is different, here are my top 5 reasons for why setting goals is useful. 

1. Setting goals helps you to identify what it is that you want and what is important to you

Acclaimed author, speaker and businessman Stephen Covey offers sage advice on this with the second habit in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Affiliate link). He suggests that we “Begin with the end in mind.” If done intentionally and thoughtfully, identifying your goals helps you to become crystal clear on what it is that you want. This is true for what I call your big Want, as in your overall vision for your life, as well as for your little wants or aspirations that will help you get there. I truly believe that you can’t get to where you want to go AND enjoy the journey along the way if you don’t have at least some idea of what your destination is.

2. Setting goals helps you to accomplish the things that you want to achieve

We can all come up with grand ideas of what we want to achieve. Unless you happen to be very lucky, the only way to turn those ideas into reality is by setting realistic goals and then following through on the steps needed to achieve them. 

3. Setting goals helps to keep you focused

One of the primary benefits of setting goals is that it helps to keep you on track and focused. It helps you to prioritize your time and energy. As Stephen Covey says, to begin with the end in mind “means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”  While we certainly don’t have to be “on task” every minute of every day, goals help us to make sure that we’re spending our time in a way that reflects what is important to us.  

4. Setting goals helps to give you purpose

We can all recognize that individual actions or tasks can sometimes seem mundane or meaningless. If you know though that they’re working toward a larger goal, it gives them meaning and helps you to feel an overall sense of purpose. If I would rather sleep 30 more minutes than get up and exercise, it may be hard to get motivated and do what I know is good for my body if I don’t have a goal in mind. On the other hand, having a goal of strengthening my body and increasing my endurance so that I can take part in and enjoy an upcoming hiking trip with my family is something that will have me out of bed and exercising with very few thoughts of protest. 

5. Achieving goals gives you a sense of satisfaction

As I mentioned before, a goal is a measurable milestone. According to Merriam-Webster, a milestone is a significant point in development. That means that it has never happened before, at least not in the same way. Since a goal is something that you’ve never accomplished before, then actually following through and doing it, will give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I remember the feeling that I had when I crossed the finish line after running my marathon. The only thing that has ever come close was giving birth. It was a feeling of “I have just done something that was so much bigger than anything that I thought I would ever do.” Now that’s a sense of satisfaction. 

Recommended Resources

As you think more about the possible benefits of setting goals and how to achieve them, I highly recommend the following resources.  

  • 9 Types of Goals to get Your Life Moving in the Right Direction is a great article written by Leon Ho, the founder and CEO of Lifehack. It explains the different types of goals as well as how to put them in perspective using the S.M.A.R.T. Framework. 
  • The Lifebook Online Program created by entrepreneurs Jon and Missy Butcher and offered through Mindvalley is a FREE program that walks you through the process of identifying your vision and goals in what they’ve identified as the primary 12 categories of life. The 6-week program requires 3-6 hours a week and costs $500 at the outset to ensure that you finish it. Once you’ve completed it, you can get 100 percent of your money back with no questions asked, but you will lose access to the program. If you want to retain access to all of the online resources, then you let them keep your payment. It’s important to note that I am not an affiliate of the program. After having taken it and having gotten my full payment back with no problem, I was simply so impressed by their entire process that I wanted to recommend it to you. 

Bottom Line on the Benefits of Setting Goals

The bottom line on the benefits of setting goals is that while having dreams and more concretely, a vision for your life are good, the catch is that in order to achieve them, you have to have goals. If you don’t like the idea of setting resolutions, then simply think about your goals for the year. Coming up with these gives you a set amount of time to get 1-3 milestones met that will work toward creating the life that you want. 

Lean on Your Community

Do you usually set resolutions or goals at the beginning of each year? Let us know in the comments either way about why you do or don’t. 


10 Tips for Drinking More Water

Practical and Budget-Friendly Steps for Staying Healthy and Hydrated.

Growing up, I was not a water drinker. Even when I did start drinking it in early adulthood, I could easily get sidetracked because caffeine of some sort always took priority. Now, my drink selection is made up of herbal tea, 96 ounces of water a day, almond milk as part of my smoothie and the occasional glass of wine thrown in for good measure. If you’re thinking that 96 ounces of water sounds like it would be impossible to drink in one day, I can tell you that it really isn’t if I follow the simple routine that I’ve set for myself. Because I often have people asking me what that routine is or how I drink so much water, I wanted to share these 10 practical and budget-friendly tips for drinking more water that will help you stay healthy and hydrated.

Photo of purple water bottle as an example of tips for drinking more water
Photo by Julia Sakelli from Pexels

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.

How Much Water Do We Need?

Before we get to how to drink more water, it’s important to have a fairly good idea of how much we actually need. While this varies from person to person, there are general guidelines that are helpful to follow with most of them coming in quite a bit higher than the eight 8-ounce glasses a day or 64 ounces rule. I got my 96 ounces amount by following the advice of Dr. Brooke Goldner when I spoke with her about her journey from disease to health. That is an amount that definitely works well for me. 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Mayo Clinic follow the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s recommendation of about 11.5 cups per day (92 ounces) for women. Approximately 20 percent of that usually comes from food1,. That means that we need to make sure that we’re drinking at least 74-80 ounces of water a day. 

Tips for Drinking More Water

Here are my tips for how to drink more water.

1. Get a 40-ounce water bottle

This is a crucial part of how I drink so much water every day. I know exactly how much is in my water bottle, and I know that it takes filling it up twice a day to get the majority of what I need. For me, the simpler that I can make things, the more likely they are to happen. Drinking two bottles is much easier for me to think about than six glasses. 

While the initial cost of investing in a good stainless steel water bottle may seem a little steep compared to the price of a soda or some other drink, just think about the fact that you’re going to use this bottle over and over again for years. There’s simply no comparison when it comes to cost. A re-usable bottle is the way to go. My favorite water bottle is Klean Kanteen’s Classic Stainless Steel 40-ounce Water Bottle (Affiliate Link). 

2. Sync drinking water with daily activities

If you sync drinking water with your daily activities, it simply becomes a regular part of your routine. For example, drink while you exercise; drink after every time you go to the bathroom (but not past 8 or 9pm); and drink water with every meal.

3. Drink 16 ounces first thing in the morning

Fill your 40-ounce water bottle first thing and drink nearly half of it within half an hour of waking up. Trust me, it’s a great way to help you feel good in the morning, and it puts you well on your way to achieving your goal of drinking more water. 

4. Drink 40 ounces by Noon

In addition to my 40-ounce water bottle, this is my second most important step in being able to drink so much water. If you drink at least 40 ounces by Noon, getting the rest in during the afternoon and early evening is a breeze. My general routine is to drink 40 ounces by Noon, my second 40 ounces by 5:30 p.m. and then have water for dinner. This makes sure that I’m spacing it out throughout the day, which lends itself to less frequent and more predictable bathroom breaks. 

5. Flavor water with fruit

If you aren’t already a water drinker, adding fruit may give you the flavor that you’re looking for to be inspired. Many people add lemon slices to their water, which is delicious in and of itself, but don’t forget that you can add other fruit as well. I like raspberries, strawberries and even kiwi. Once you get used to the more toned down, natural flavor of fruit in your water, you may find that drinking it without anything in it is more enjoyable as well. 

6. Replace at least one soda or other drink with water

If you usually drink soda, coffee or anything else with sugar or caffeine in it throughout the day, replace at least one of those with water. This is a great way to drink more water overall and to give your bank account a boost. Drinking water is so much cheaper than other drinks that if you do this on a daily basis, the amount that you save will really start to add up. 

7. Drink water 30 minutes before eating

Drinking water 30 minutes before eating is a good idea for both snacks and meals. In fact, a study published by The Obesity Society in 2009 shows that drinking water before a meal lowers the amount of calories consumed while eating2. In other words, drinking water before eating makes you feel full and less likely to overeat. Along the same lines, if you start to feel hungry mid-morning or mid-afternoon, try drinking it before snacking. Wait 15 minutes or so and then see if you’re still feeling hungry. If so, have a healthy snack

8. Eat foods high in water content

Eating foods high in water content is an easy way to drink more water. Strawberries, watermelon, peaches and oranges are some of the fruits with a high water content. When it comes to vegetables, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes and spinach are good options3,4,5,6,7

9. Drink herbal tea with no caffeine 

This is my personal preference speaking here. Yes, coffee and caffeinated tea and any other beverages made with water count toward your overall water intake8, but I’m always going to advocate for as little caffeine as possible. In my book, herbal tea is like flavored water with many health benefits. 

10. Set alarm for drinking water every hour

If you really need to kickstart your water drinking habit, setting an hourly alarm is a good reminder. This is a good way to space your water consumption throughout the day. 

Bottom Line

The bottom line on drinking more water is that once you start doing it, you will likely find that it’s easier than you thought it would be and more naturally what you want on a daily basis. If you use any of these tips to help you get started, be sure and let us know how it’s going in the comments below. 

Sources

  1. Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. How Much Water Do You Need?https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/how-much-water-do-you-need
  2. Dennis EA, Dengo AL, Comber DL, Flack KD, Savla J, Davy KP, Davy BM. Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.235. Epub 2009 Aug 6. PMID: 19661958; PMCID: PMC2859815. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19661958/
  3. NutritionData. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2477/2
  4. NutritionData. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2439/2
  5. NutritionData. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2639/2
  6. NutritionData. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2682/2
  7. NutritionData. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2626/2
  8. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source. Water. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/water/


10 Healthy Snacks for Adults

Get Energized the Healthy Way!

Snacks are a key component to staying healthy as far as I’m concerned. In fact, there’s no better way to sabotage how I want to be eating than to get hungry or tired in the middle of the afternoon with nothing around but chips or sweets. That’s why I think it’s just as important that we stay well-stocked with healthy snacks for us as it is to have plenty of snacks for our kids. Sometimes the two may overlap, but other times we may want something a bit more… adult. The main thing is that we have options for getting energized the healthy way, which is why I wanted to let you know my 10 favorite healthy snacks for adults. 

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.

1. A Handful of Nuts

The key to eating nuts is that you really do want to keep it to a handful and that you don’t eat the kind that have been roasted in oil and salt. According to the Mayo Clinic, a serving size of nuts is considered to be 1/3 cup. It’s important to stick with that as a general rule because nuts are high in calories. They also have a higher fat content, but it’s the healthy kind – monosaturated fat and omega-3 – so you don’t need to worry about that as much if you keep to the recommended service size. I only buy and eat raw, organic nuts because those that are roasted in oil and salt can start to get fairly unhealthy. 

2. Energy or Protein Balls

Energy or protein balls of any kind are a great afternoon pick-me-up. Since these are usually made with some type of nut butter or dates, you’ll want to eat only one ball for your snack. That may sound like it wouldn’t be enough, but trust me, it is! These Raw Chocolate Balls from Raw Food Recipes are my favorites, but I have plenty of others that I can recommend here as well. 

3. Dark Chocolate

Many of you know how I feel about dark chocolate, but in case you don’t, I love it! It’s a great, healthy afternoon boost that I eat nearly every day. You can find out the secret to eating chocolate every day in a healthy way here.

4. Piece of Fruit

Fruit is a great snack because many types don’t need a lot of preparation, and they provide natural sugar as well as plenty of nutrients. The Mayo Clinic says that “Examples of one serving include one medium fruit, or 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit.” If you’re eating a piece of fruit with an edible peel, leave it on if possible. You definitely want the fiber and other goodness it contains. If you find that you need a little more umph! than what a single piece of fruit provides, registered dietician Carol Aguirre from Nutrition Connections recommends eating it with peanut butter or some other type of nut butter to add protein. I love an apple or banana with Simple Truth organic peanut butter. 

5. Trail Mix

There are so many different types of trail mix that you can buy or make yourself. While I do have a few store-bought favorites that I’ll get every now and then, I highly recommend a homemade mix so that you can have control over the ingredients. One of the main things to remember with trail mix is portion control. I don’t know about you, but I could easily sit down with an entire bag or recipe and munch until I’ve eaten the whole thing. To keep from doing that, measure out one portion into a bowl and put the rest away. Here’s the link to one of my favorites – Healthy Homemade Nut Free Trail Mix from Better With Cake. 

6. Rice Cake with Peanut Butter

I was reminded of this easy and healthy snack by Carol Aguirre as well. Talk about a simple and satisfying energy boost! Most peanut butter says that 2 tablespoons is a serving, but honestly, I think that’s a lot. One tablespoon is all I usually need to give my rice cake a thin covering that adds taste, flavor and protein. 

Photo of vegetables and hummus as an example of healthy snacks for adults

7. Cut Up Veggies and Hummus

The sky is the limit as far as I’m concerned when it comes to veggies that are good to dip in hummus. You have sliced bell pepper, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower and many more. Making your own hummus is so easy and budget friendly. It also puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding which ingredients you do and don’t want. If you need a good recipe, be sure and try Linda Watson’s Hummus from Wildly Affordable Organic (Affiliate Link). 

8. Crackers and Bean Dip

Crackers and some type of bean dip are a fantastic, portable healthy snack for adults that gives you both some energizing carbs as well as protein. The key is making sure that your crackers are whole grain or made with a grain-free flour so that they provide you with complex and not simple carbs. My favorite cracker and bean dip combination is the Irresistible White Bean Dip with 4-Ingredient Paleo Crackers by Dreena Burton and published on the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s website. 

9. Boiled Egg

A boiled egg makes a great protein-packed snack. Simply boil a bunch at one time, peel them when they’re cool and have them ready so that you can pull out one at a time when you need it. 

10. Spicy Chickpeas

Spicy chickpeas are a fabulous way to add flavor, protein and plenty of other healthy stuff to your afternoon. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, chickpeas are rich in protein, folate, fiber, iron, phosphorus and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Just like with everything else though, portion control is key. My favorite version is this Spicy Roasted Chickpeas recipe from Natural Chow.

Bottom Line on Healthy Snacks for Adults

The bottom line on healthy snacks for adults is remembering that the point of a snack isn’t to be another meal. It’s to take the edge off your hunger and boost your energy so that you can do everything that you want to do until it’s time for your next meal. If you find that you’re consistently wanting heavier snacks, you may want to re-think what you’re eating for your meals. If it is a true snack that you’re looking for, hopefully the suggestions listed here will give you some ideas. Happy healthy snacking!!


Seasonal Produce Spotlight: The Health Benefits of Cauliflower

How to Eat Cauliflower and How Much It Costs.

There’s a reason why cauliflower is everywhere these days. It’s so versatile! It’s a vegetable and a carbohydrate substitute all rolled into one. While I was late in being convinced of the merits of broccoli, I’ve always loved cauliflower and am glad to see it get its time in the spotlight. Besides, the health benefits of cauliflower are so numerous, what’s not to love?

Photos of cauliflower (whole and minced) as an example of the health benefits of cauliflower

What is Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, which means that it belongs to the Brassica family2. Other cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, bok choy, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Cauliflower is a cool weather crop and is in season in the spring and fall3 – before it gets too hot and after the heat of summer has passed. An interesting fact is that the white part of the plant that we eat is called a “curd3,” which makes sense because that’s the word that always comes to mind when I see it. 

Nutrients in Cauliflower

The nutrients in cauliflower are numerous. In fact, it’s ranked 24 on a list of what the CDC calls Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables. These fruits and vegetables provide, “on average, 10 percent or more daily value per 100 kcal of 17 qualifying nutrients.” Those nutrients are potassium, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and K1

Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Of course, the fact that cauliflower is low in net carbs is why it has suddenly surged in popularity recently. Because it’s so versatile, it can easily be used as a substitute for rice, mashed potatoes and even pizza crust. While I’m more of a fan of making healthy eating part of your lifestyle and not a huge supporter of any so-called “diet,” the fact is that many of us eat way too many starchy foods that offer little to no nutritional value. One way of addressing the many health problems that can be caused by this is portion control. Another, and the main way that I’ve found back to better health, is adding more nutrient-dense foods like cauliflower and reducing the foods that don’t add much benefit. 

One of the reasons that cauliflower is so low in net carbs is that it’s high in fiber. Eating more fiber helps to lower our risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and gastrointestinal disease5. The primary way of figuring out net carbs in a food is to subtract the amount of fiber from the amount of carbohydrates. That means that our example above of 1 cup of raw cauliflower has approximately 3.2 grams of net carbs. 

Besides being high in fiber, the number of other nutrients associated with vegetables in the Brassica family2 mean that there are many additional health benefits of cauliflower as well. Studies show that the vegetables in this family help prevent oxidative stress, stimulate the immune system and decrease the risk of cancer6. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these include breast, pancreatic, bladder, lung, prostate and colon cancers2

How to Prepare Cauliflower

Here are some of the healthiest ways that you can prepare cauliflower. 

  • Steam it to have as a side dish alone or with other vegetables.
  • Roast it to have as a side dish alone or with other vegetables.
  • Sauté it in olive or avocado oil in a stir-fry.
  • Raw. Even as a child, cauliflower was one of the few vegetables that I would willingly eat raw because it was somewhat crunchy. You can eat it raw by itself, on salads or simply dipped in some type of sauce or dressing. 

Other, and probably more exciting, ways to prepare cauliflower include the following.

Budget Benefits of Cauliflower

If you’re buying whole, fresh cauliflower, the most budget-friendly way to do it is to buy it in-season. That again is in the spring or fall. You can usually find a large head at that time for under $3. If it’s not in-season, it usually costs between $3-$4. Depending on how it’s fixed, I usually get 4-5 servings out of a large head. 

If you’re trying to limit chemical exposure to your food while also keeping grocery costs as low as possible, it’s important to know that cauliflower is on the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen list. That means that its pesticide-load is low and doesn’t necessarily need to be organic.

One of the biggest questions I had when I started making cauliflower rice was whether it was cheaper or just as cheap to buy the pre-riced fresh or frozen versions rather than to make it from a head. While you can buy it frozen cheaper in bulk at a shopping club, unless it’s on sale, you will usually get more for your money if you buy a whole head fresh and mince it yourself. 

If having the time or energy to cut up the cauliflower seems to be a challenge for you, you can easily prep it over the weekend and then quickly mince it when you’re ready for it. You can also mince it when you do the rest of your food prep for the week and have it ready as a quick and easy convenience food whenever you need it. 

Bottom Line on the Health Benefits of Cauliflower

However you prepare it, cauliflower is a great budget-friendly vegetable to have as part of your regular eating habits. The nutritional value packed into one head will always make it one of the healthiest foods available, whether it’s part of the latest diet trend or not.

Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach. https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2014/13_0390.htm#table2_down
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Crunchy and Cruciferous: You’ll Love This Special Family of Veggies. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/crunchy-and-cruciferous-youll-love-this-special-family-of-veggies/
  3. University of Illinois Extension. Watch Your Garden Grow: Cauliflower. https://web.extension.illinois.edu/veggies/cauliflower.cfm
  4. USDA. Food Data Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103345/nutrients
  5. Anderson JW, Baird P, Davis RH Jr, Ferreri S, Knudtson M, Koraym A, Waters V, Williams CL. Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PMID: 19335713. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19335713/
  6. Kapusta-Duch J, Kopeć A, Piatkowska E, Borczak B, Leszczyńska T. The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2012;63(4):389-95. PMID: 23631258. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23631258/


How to Eat Healthy While Traveling by Car

9 Tips to Take on the Road for Holiday Travel or Anytime.

If you’re going to be traveling this holiday season, you very well may have decided to go by car in order to have more control over your surroundings and situation. If that’s the case, continuing to maintain healthy eating habits while you travel will help you to feel your best and ensure that if you are exposed to any viruses, your body is in a good place to tackle them head on. As someone who has done this both successfully and learned the hard way why it is so important, I’m sharing my top 9 tips for how to eat healthy while traveling by car for holiday travel or anytime. 

Photo of car with cooler sitting beside it as example of how to eat healthy while traveling
Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

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Keep eating as normally as possible while on the road

Continuing to eat healthy while traveling is quite simply less of a shock to your system than loading up on convenience store and fast food if that’s not something that you’re used to. While I’m usually fairly good about this, I did the opposite recently and was not in a good place by the return trip home. I did not plan ahead and thought that I would be able to find plenty to eat along the way. There was plenty to eat, but it was not healthy, and my digestive system suffered. 

Take a cooler

A large cooler is a healthy traveler’s best friend. I’ve taken food for an entire week before while living out of a hotel room and been just fine. It allows you to take plenty of food for the road as well as if you need to buy and store items when you arrive at your destination. Pre-made salads, hummus, beans, cut up chicken and vegetables are suddenly an option just by having a good cooler. It also lets you store sandwich meat, which isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice but is better than much of the fast food that you might get. 

Use ice packs, not bags of ice

It took me a while to figure this one out, but ice packs are much easier, cleaner and less expensive than packing your cooler full of ice. The brand that I highly recommend is Cooler Shock (affiliate link). I have 4 of their 10 x 10 mid-size freeze packs, and they really do stay cold for the advertised 24 – 48 hours. 

Stay in a hotel with microwave and mini-fridge

If you’re staying in a hotel, make sure when you’re making your reservation that it has a microwave and mini-fridge. If you do this, eating healthy while traveling is easy. That’s especially true in 2020, when most hotels that might usually serve hot breakfast options are having to serve items that can easily be packed to go instead. If you need some ideas on how to best make use of your microwave and mini-fridge, be sure to check out The Fun Sized Life’s 30 Healthy Meals to Make in a Hotel Room While You Travel

Take lots of snacks

Whether you usually snack or not, you can count on doing it more than normal while traveling. That’s why it’s important to have plenty of healthy options on hand for everyone that’s traveling with you. Not only is this healthier for you overall, it’s also much cheaper than buying snacks at a convenience store. My general rule of thumb is to take twice as many snacks than I feel like I would normally need because as I mentioned, we simply snack more when traveling, especially by car. 

Take refillable water bottles

Toting around cases of plastic water bottles may seem like the easiest option when traveling, but it’s not good for our health and it’s certainly not good for the environment. Taking two large refillable water bottles per person is a much better way to do it. These can be filled up at the beginning of the day and stored in the cooler. They can then be refilled as needed at restaurants or convenience stores. While I love Klean Kanteen’s Classic Stainless Steel 40-ounce Water Bottle (affiliate link), I can also recommend Takeya’s Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle(affiliate link). My son has one of these, and it literally still has ice in it the next day. 

Plan stops for meals

If you’re going to stop for a meal or go through a drive-thru, plan ahead enough that you can gauge where you’re going to be at the approximate time that you’ll want to stop. That way, you can look ahead to see what types of restaurants are available that serve healthy or healthier options. You can even place a “to go” order that will be ready when you arrive as opposed to having to settle on whatever is available at the exit where you happen to stop. 

Take griddle

If you have a griddle, your ability to eat healthy while traveling just expanded greatly. While you don’t want to cook anything that will give off a lot of smoke in a hotel room, scrambled eggs, protein pancakes, whole wheat toast and healthy hash browns are all potential meals. If you have a car outlet adapter, you can even pull off at a park or rest area, plug in and make your meal there as well. 

Stay in a hotel with a kitchenette

If you’re in a hotel with a kitchenette, the sky is the limit when it comes to eating healthy while traveling. While I would limit fixing major meals to when you are not on a rushed timeline, making simple meals can be a time and money saver in addition to a way to eat healthy. My recommendation is to buy the food you’ll need ahead of time and store anything perishable in your cooler so that you can simply pull it out when you arrive at your hotel. After a long day of traveling, the last thing that you’ll want to do is to stop at a grocery store and then fix your food. 

Bottom Line on Eating Healthy While Traveling

The goal of eating healthy while traveling is not to be too strict with yourself. If you can only do it part of the time, that’s certainly better than not doing it at all. The goal is that you’re able to feel your best and enjoy the experience. 

If you have any other tips for eating healthy while traveling, feel free to add them in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other.